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Behavioural effects of separating the dairy calf immediately or 4 days post-partum

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 49(3): 269-283
Behavioural effects of separating the dairy calf immediately or 4 days post-partum
This study investigated the behavioural effects of separating the dairy calf from its mother at birth or after 4 days and how the mother-young attachment and suckling behaviour developed during these 4 days post partum (p.p.). Observations were made during 2 h sampling sessions per day on 33 Swedish Red and White and 6 Swedish Friesian mother young pairs. They were either kept together during 96 h (treatment T n = 24) in a calving pen (11 m-2) or separated immediately p.p. (treatment S n = 15) with the cow kept in the calving pen and the calf placed in a single crate (1.2 m-2) at a distance of 5 m from the cow and in sight of each other. Calves on treatment T were standing earlier p.p. than calves on treatment S (60 vs. 201 min p.p., P ltoreq 0.05). However, seven of these calves (32%) did not suckle successfully within 4 h. p.p. Mean duration until placenta expulsion was 245 min and 77% of the cows showed placentophagia, but there were no effects of treatment. During the 2 h p.p. cows on treatment T vocalized more often (P ltoreq 0.001), were lying less (P ltoreq 0.001), were less inactive (P ltoreq 0.05) and performed less oral behaviour (P ltoreq 0.01) than cows on treatment S. Calves on treatment T vocalized less often during all 4 days p.p. (P ltoreq 0.001) and licked themselves less often during the second, third and fourth day p.p. (P ltoreq 0.05) than calves on treatment S. When the calf was separated at 96 h, cows on treatment T vocalized more often (P ltoreq 0.001), were lying less (P ltoreq 0.05) and ruminated less (P ltoreq 0.01) than did cows on treatment S. Calves on treatment T were lying less (P ltoreq 0.01) and performed more oral behaviour (P ltoreq 0.05) after separation than did calves on treatment S. Cows on treatment T were within 1 m of the calf during most observations, but this decreased during the 4 days p.p. (P ltoreq 0.01). Maternal sniffing and licking was most common during the first 2 h p.p., and decreased during the 4 days (P ltoreq 0.0001). Total suckling time per 24 h decreased during the first 4 days (P ltoreq 0.01), but suckling frequency and bout duration did not change over the 4 days. The conclusion from this study is that both cow and calf are stimulated to higher activity immediately post partum when kept together, but that separation after 4 days has an effect on some behaviours of both cows and calves.

Accession: 002763688

DOI: 10.1016/0168-1591(96)01053-2

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