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The level of social contact affects social behaviour in pre-weaned dairy calves

By Linda Rosager Duve, Margit Bak Jensen

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The present study investigated the effects of the level of social contact in the home environment on the social preference, bonding and social behaviour of pre-weaned dairy calves. Twenty-seven pairs of calves were reared from birth until 6 weeks either individually (with limited social contact between bars; L-calves), in pairs (with full social contact; F-calves), or individually for 3 weeks and in pairs for the next 3 weeks (LF-calves). At 5 weeks of age the bonding between calves in a pair was evaluated by measuring their response to separation and the subsequent reunion in the home environment. The following day the social preference was evaluated in a triangular test arena where the calves could choose between the companion and an unfamiliar calf. Finally, at 6 weeks of age the response of the calves to a novel arena, alone and with the companion, was measured. During separation in the home environment L-calves spent more time being inactive (F: 779±65, LF: 731±69, L: 975±65s; P=0.04) compared to LF-calves and F-calves. During the preference test more F-calves approached the companion before the unfamiliar calf, while more L-calves approached the unfamiliar calf first (F: 8/9, LF: 4/9, L: 1/9; P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 135
Issue 1
Pages 34-43
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.08.014
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Dairy animals
  2. preferences
  3. Social Contacts