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Effect of postweaning handling strategies on welfare and productive traits in lambs

By M. Pascual-Alonso, G. C. la Miranda-de Lama, L. Aguayo-Ulloa, L. Ezquerro, M. Villarroel, R. H. Marin, G. A. Maria

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Abstract

Postweaning management strategies that include an element of social enrichment may reduce weaning stress and improve welfare and productive performance. We analyzed the effect of postweaning handling strategies on welfare and production traits in lambs. After weaning, 36 lambs were assigned to 3 experimental groups with 12 lambs each (control [C], fattening with gentle human female contact [H], and fattening with 2 adult ewes [E]). The average daily gain (ADG) was estimated. Blood samples were taken, and infrared thermography was used to estimate stress variables. There were significant differences among treatments (in favor of alternative strategies) regarding production and stress variables (cortisol, glucose, and creatine kinase). The results suggest that the lambs handled gently during the fattening were less reactive and better able to modulate their physiological stress. The E group adapted better to acute stress than the C group but was less efficient in modulating chronic stress. Both treatments showed higher slaughter live weights and better ADGs compared with the control. The use of social enrichment at weaning, especially to establish a positive human-nonhuman animal bond, alleviates lamb weaning stress and improves welfare and performance.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 18
Issue 1
Pages 42-56
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2014.941107
Language lEnglish
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Tags
  1. Handling
  2. Lambs
  3. peer-reviewed
  4. Sheep
  5. welfare
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  1. peer-reviewed