Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/9/2004
Publication Date: 6/18/2004
Citation: Johnson, T.A., Eicher, S.D., Marchant Forde, J.N., Wilcox, C.S. 2004. Age at transport effects on behavioral responses in dairy calves to novel stimuli. International Society of Applied Ethology. p. 25.
Technical Abstract: Transportation of neonatal diary calves within the first week of life has become a common management practice on many dairy farms in the U. S. Stressors, including transportation, can potentially affect the animal's behavioral responses to a novel environment. This study was performed to evaluate the effects of age at transport on behavioral response to novel stimuli within a test environment. Eighteen Holstein dairy calves were randomly assigned to treatments in a randomized incomplete block design according to day of transport; 2-3 d (A), 4-5 d (B), or 6-8 d (C). Each calf was transported for 6h (d0) in an aluminum, covered trailer with straw bedding. Then calves were placed in outdoor hutches until d 39 when they were moved indoors to the USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit for behavioral testing. Testing began on d 43 (6 weeks after transport). A 21.3 meter corridor was designed with several novel objects spaced approximately 2.4 meters apart; including a red bucket, black mat, translucent plastic curtain, horizontal striped plank, darkened space, silver gates, and reflecting metal. Videotaped behavioral data were analyzed using the Noldus Observer program in a continuous observation. Data for the first experience with the corridor are reported here. All data were normalized and statically analyzed using GLM procedures of SAS. Treatment A tended to take longer to cross obstacle 2, red bucket, than treatment C (12.1 and 5.6 seconds respectively, P<0.10). Less force was needed to pass obstacle 7, corner, for treatment A with no force required compared to treatment B with an average force requirement of entering into flight zone (P<0.05). All remaining objects did not create differences in the time or amount of force necessary to cross them or in the total time to complete the corridor. Age at transport produced disparate effects depending on the novel object. Continued analysis may show differences in the learning curve among treatments as subsequent runs are analyzed. These data provide evidence that transporting calves before 1 wk-of-age alters behavioral adaptations later in life. These results impact the dairy calf producers showing why they may need to make minor adjustment in their handling of calves that have been stressed by transport prior to 1 wk-of-age.