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Temporal distribution of sucking behaviour in dairy calves and influence of energy balance

By B. A. Roth, N. M. Keil, L. Gygax, E. Hillmann

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So far, most authors in the literature have suggested that cross-sucking in dairy calves is elicited by milk ingestion, as sucking motivation persists for an additional 12-15 min after milk intake. However, cross-sucking without temporal association to milk ingestion has also been noted in studies with longer observation times. Furthermore, it is known that energy deficits influence sucking behaviour. This study is based on the hypothesis that cross-sucking is not only elicited by milk ingestion; hunger can also reinforce sucking behaviour. Seventy-five dairy calves (in groups of 24-27 animals) were observed two times for 20 h each during the milk feeding period, 1 week after grouping and 1 week before weaning. We noted all events of cross-sucking and related them to the calves' temporally closest visits to the milk feeder, with or without milk ingestion. The daily energy balance (consumed energy minus energy demand for growth and maintenance) was determined for each animal, and the influence of energy balance on the occurrence of cross-sucking was calculated. Thereafter, a daily energy balance was assigned to each cross-sucking bout. Of 919 cross-sucking bouts, 28.4% occurred within the first 15 min after receiving milk, and 71.6% of the sucking bouts occurred independently of milk intake. Of that 71.6

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 119
Issue 3/4
Pages 137-142
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.03.006
Language English
Author Address ETH Zurich, Institute of Animal Sciences, Physiology and Behaviour, ETH Zentrum, LFW B 54.1, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Calves
  6. Cattle
  7. Dairy animals
  8. Energy
  9. Feeding
  10. Hunger
  11. Intake
  12. Mammals
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Research
  15. Ruminants
  16. Studies
  17. timing
  18. weaning
  1. peer-reviewed