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Preventing physical interactions between parturient ewes and their neonate differentially impairs the development of maternal responsiveness and selectivity depending on maternal experience

By J. Otal, F. Levy, F. Cornilleau, C. Moussu, M. Keller, P. Poindron

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Abstract

The present study investigated whether deprivation of nursing or of any physical interaction with the lamb impairs the onset of maternal responsiveness and the establishment of selectivity in primiparous and multiparous ewes. Just after parturition, ewes could interact freely with their lamb, or could only lick their lamb but not nurse them, or could neither lick nor nurse them for the first 4 h. At 4 h, mothers were successively observed for 3 min with an alien lamb and then with their own lamb. Only 5/14 primiparous mothers accepted their own lamb following deprivation of all physical contact whereas all multiparous mothers did so (19/19). Also, deprivation of all physical contact resulted in a significantly higher proportion of multiparous mothers accepting an alien lamb (6/18) than following deprivation of nursing only (0/19) indicating an impairment in selectivity. Finally, there was no indication that preventing only nursing led to a deficit either in maternal responsiveness or selectivity, neither in primiparous nor in multiparous ewes. These findings underline the importance of perception of olfactory cues from amniotic fluids through licking and/or physical contact and interacting with the lamb for the development of maternal responsiveness and selectivity.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 120
Issue 3/4
Pages 140-149
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.07.003
Language English
Author Address INRA, UMR 85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, F-37380 Nouzilly, France. poindron@tours.inra.fr
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal physiology
  3. Animal reproduction
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Birth
  6. Deprivation
  7. Interactions
  8. Mammals
  9. Maternal behavior
  10. mothers
  11. odors
  12. olfaction
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. perceptions
  15. Ruminants
  16. Sheep
  17. Wool producing animals
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  1. peer-reviewed