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Effects of amount of milk, milk flow and access to a rubber teat on cross-sucking and non-nutritive sucking in dairy calves. (Special issue: Suckling)

By J. Jung, L. Lidfors

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The aim of this study was to test the effects of different amounts of milk, rate of milk flow, and access to a teat after milk intake on non-nutritive sucking on an empty teat and on cross-sucking on other calves in Bos taurus dairy calves. An additional aim was to test if calves prefer to perform non-nutritive sucking on a teat with the taste of milk or on a clean teat. The first experiment involved 11 groups of three calves during a gradual decrease from 5 to 2.5 and 1 to 0 litres of whole milk per meal twice daily. Milk flow was either 0.5 or 1 litre/min, and the teat buckets were either left or removed after milk intake. When the calves were fed with 5 litres of milk, non-nutritive sucking and cross-sucking decreased (P<0.001), compared to 1 and 2.5 litres. Removing the empty teat after milk intake increased cross-sucking (P<0.001). Slow milk flow reduced non-nutritive sucking after milk intake (P<0.05), but did not influence cross-sucking. Duration of recorded milk intake was similar with fast flow and 5 litres of milk, compared to slow flow and 2.5 litres of milk. The latter combination increased non-nutritive sucking and cross-sucking, suggesting that the amount of milk is more important than the duration of milk intake. The second experiment was carried out on 12 individually kept calves. The calves received 2.5 litres of milk either in an open bucket, in a rubber teat bucket, or half/half in both buckets. When not used for feeding, the open bucket and the teat bucket were filled and emptied again to make these tasty with drops of milk. The tasty teat bucket was either present or removed after milk intake. Calves always had access to a second clean teat bucket. The source of milk had no influence on recorded behaviour after milk intake. The tasty teat was sucked for twice as long as the clean one when both teats were present (P<0.001). When the tasty teat was removed, the calves increased sucking on the clean teat (P<0.001), but decreased total time spent sucking (P<0.001). It was concluded that a high amount of milk and the presence of the teat bucket after milk intake reduces cross-sucking, and a clean teat is less effective in encouraging calves to suck than a teat with the taste of milk.

Date 2001
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 72
Issue 3
Pages 201-213
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(01)00110-1
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 234, SE-532 23 Skara, Sweden.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal nutrition
  2. Appetite
  3. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  4. Calves
  5. Cattle
  6. Dairy animals
  7. Eating disorders
  8. Feeders
  9. Feeding behavior
  10. Mammals
  11. Milk and dairy products
  12. nipple drinkers
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Ruminants
  15. suckling
  1. peer-reviewed