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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of Social and Physical Environment on Dairy Calf Behavior and Performance

Authors
item Morrow, Julie
item Dailey, Jeffery
item Scott, Karen - PURDUE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science Supplement
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 15, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The environment that we raise livestock in is important to their well-being. Dairy calves are weaned from the dam within 3 d of birth. They are then housed in individual pens of varying design as this reduces cross suckling and disease transmission. Cattle are social animals, however, and may benefit from rearing in group pens. The objectives of this study were to quantify behavior and production of calves housed individually or in groups with or without an enrichment device. The enrichment device was a commercially available Braden Bottle with a nipple on one end and filled with calf starter ration. The Braden bottles were placed directly in front and above the feed and water buckets. Three calves were randomly allotted to the four treatments which were replicated twice (N=24). Behavior was continuously video recorded on a time-lapse recorder. Behavior was then quantified for three separate 24-hr time periods when calves were 2,3 and 6 6weeks of age. Behaviors recorded were standing, lying, walking, and social/oral behaviors including the use of the environmental enrichment device, sucking on other calves or chewing on the tether during feeding. Calves in group pens gained more weight (P=.04) than calves from individual pens. Group-housed calves spent more time (P=<.01) on oral activities including sucking on the Braden bottle (P<.01), other calves (P<.01) and tethers (P=.02). All calves showed increased oral activity across the six-wk study (P<.01). These results suggest that young calves have a behavior requirement for oral activity and that group housing with the provision of substrates suitable for the redirection of normal oral behaviors is beneficial to calf well-being and productivity.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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