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Cross-sucking by dairy calves may become a habit or reflect characteristics of individual calves more than milk allowance or weaning

By Anne Marie de Passillé, Fernando Borderas, Jeffrey Rushen

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Abstract

To examine the effects of milk allowance and weaning age on cross-sucking, 45 dairy calves were housed in groups of nine and fed milk and grain-based starter feed from automated feeders and allocated to three treatment groups: (A) Low-Milk Early-Weaned (fed 6L/d of milk until weaned at 47 d of age), (B) High-Milk Early-Weaned (fed 12L/d of milk until weaned at 47 d of age), (C) High-Milk Later-Weaned (fed 12L/d of milk until weaned at 89 d of age). We observed all instances of cross-sucking another calf during 12h/d over 18 d between wk 5 and wk 21. When all calves were drinking milk, little cross-sucking occurred and was not related to milk allowance (P>0.10). There was no significant change in the duration of cross-sucking when calves were weaned at either age (P>0.10). There were large differences between individual calves in the duration of cross-sucking performed and these were stable over time, with positive correlations between the duration of cross-sucking in consecutive weekly periods (0.33

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 133
Issue 3
Pages 137-143
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.04.020
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Tags
  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Dairy animals
  3. Hunger
  4. weaning
  5. welfare