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Feed barrier design affects behaviour and physiology in goats

By Eva Nordmann, Nina Maria Keil, Claudia Schmied-Wagner, Christine Graml, Jan Langbein, Janine Aschwanden, Jessica von Hof, Kristina Maschat, Rupert Palme, Susanne Waiblinger

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Among other things, feed barrier design for goats can differ with regard to ease of leaving, backward view, and presence of physical separation. The aim of our study was to investigate whether the type of feed barrier influences agonistic behaviour and stress. The study involved 55 adult non-lactating female goats of several Swiss dairy breeds. Three groups of 14 and one group of 13 goats (2 horned, 2 hornless) were rotated between four pens with different types of feed barriers (neck rail, metal palisade, wooden palisade, diagonal fence). Each group stayed four weeks with each feed barrier type. Social interactions in the feeding area were recorded for 12h per group and feed barrier type (1.5h on 8 days each group) and corrected by the average number of feeding animals. Heart rate and heart rate variability were measured in lying and undisturbed goats to evaluate chronic stress independently of actual levels of motor activity and agonistic interactions. Individual faecal samples were taken for analysis of the concentration of cortisol metabolites. Data were analysed by linear mixed-effect models taking into account interactions between the type of feed barrier and presence of horns. Hornless goats displayed the most agonistic behaviour with physical contact in the feeding area of the neck rail and diagonal fence and least in the feeding area of the metal palisade, whereas goats with horns showed much fewer interactions of this behaviour; thus, only slight differences depending on the type of feed barrier were found (p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 133
Issue 1
Pages 40-53
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.04.016
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Goats
  2. Heart rate
  3. Social behavior
  4. Stress