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The influence of gentle interactions on avoidance distance towards humans, weight gain and physiological parameters in group-housed dairy calves

By S. Lurzel, C. Munsch, I. Windschnurer, A. Futschik, R. Palme, S. Waiblinger

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Abstract

The quality of the relationship between cattle and their caretakers is important for animal welfare and productivity. Nevertheless, the influence of gentle interactions on group-housed dairy calves has not been thoroughly studied so far. We examined the effects of 42 min of gentle interactions (stroking, gentle talking) during the first 14 days of life on female Holstein-Friesian calves. The control calves experienced only routine management. We measured the calves' avoidance distance towards a familiar person after the treatment phase (17.72.4 days old, groups of 12-14 animals), after disbudding (32.34.4 days old, groups of 26 animals) and after weaning (86.25.1 days old, same group composition as after disbudding). In addition, we measured heart rate variability (HRV) during resting after the treatment and after weaning and concentrations of faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM) after weaning, and we calculated the average daily gain in body weight from birth until after weaning. Calves frequently showed neck stretching (occurrence in 37% of all occasions) and play behaviour (9%) during the treatment. After the treatment phase, avoidance distances were lower in stroked calves than in controls ( p=0.02). After disbudding, avoidance distances were higher than before in both groups ( p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 172
Pages 9-16
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.09.004
Language English
Author Address Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare, Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Veterinarplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria.stephanie.luerzel@vetmeduni.ac.at charlotte@web-muensch.de ines.windschnurer@vetmeduni.ac.at andreas.futschik@jku.at rupert.palme@vetmeduni.ac.at susanne.waiblinger@vetmeduni.ac.at
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Lurzel, S.; Munsch, C.; Windschnurer, I.; Futschik, A.; Palme, R.; Waiblinger, S. (2016), "The influence of gentle interactions on avoidance distance towards humans, weight gain and physiological parameters in group-housed dairy calves," http://habricentral.org/resources/55081.

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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Body weight
  5. Bovidae
  6. Breeds
  7. Calves
  8. Cattle
  9. Economics
  10. Effect
  11. Feces
  12. Heart
  13. Heart rate
  14. Human behavior
  15. Humans
  16. Hydrocortisone
  17. Interactions
  18. Liveweight gains
  19. Mammals
  20. Men
  21. Metabolites
  22. Milk and dairy products
  23. performance traits
  24. Primates
  25. productivity
  26. quality
  27. Relationships
  28. Ruminants
  29. ungulates
  30. vertebrates
  31. weaning
  32. Weight
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