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The relevance of group size on goats’ social dynamics in a production environment

By Inger Lise Andersen, Hege Tønnesen, Inma Estevez, Greg M. Cronin, Knut Egil Bøe

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Abstract

The aim of the present experiment was to examine the effects of short-term experience with three different group sizes in an increasing and decreasing fashion on the frequency social interactions in goats. Two batches of 24 healthy, dehorned, 2–5 years old, lactating dairy goats (Capra hircus) were used in the experiment. In the first order of treatment, the 24 goats were kept as one group in week 1, and then the group was divided into two groups of 12 goats in week 2, and then further split into four groups of six goats in week 3. In the second order of treatment, another 24 goats were divided into four groups of six animals in week 1, and then merged into two groups of 12 animals in week 2, to be finally merged into one group of 24 animals in week 3. The goats were video recorded for 8h from 1000h on day 1 and day 5 in each of the three experimental weeks. Most types of social behaviours, both positive and negative, declined in frequency with increasing group size, resulting in a lower level of social activity in the largest group size. Day of observation after grouping and order of experiencing different group sizes both interacted with the effects of group size for a number of the behaviours observed. The present results suggest a dynamic nature of the social behaviours in domestic goats, but the results have to be interpreted with caution due to the lack of true replicates in the largest group size.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 134
Issue 3
Pages 136-143
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.08.003
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Tags
  1. Experience
  2. Goats
  3. Group size
  4. social interactions