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Social interactions, cortisol and reproductive success of domestic goats (Capra hircus) subjected to different animal densities during pregnancy

By Judit Vas, Rachel Chojnacki, Marte Flor Kjøren, Charlotte Lyngwa, Inger Lise Andersen

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Abstract

Although goats in many countries are kept indoors in the winter season, during gestation and kidding, recommendations and regulations regarding available space per goat are highly variable. The effects of different housing conditions on the welfare and behaviour are understudied in this species. The aim of the present study was to observe some behavioural, physical and physiological parameters of pregnant dairy goats kept indoors at different animal densities, and their possible influence on reproduction data was also followed. Pregnant Norwegian dairy goats from early pregnancy until parturition were kept constantly at 1, 2 or 3m2 per animal. Their social behaviour (offensive, defensive, socio-positive), body condition, weight gain and blood cortisol level were monitored throughout pregnancy. Weight and gender of offspring were recorded. We found that goats kept at higher density showed more offensive and defensive behaviours, but there was no difference in socio-positive behaviours between treatments. The increase in agonistic behaviours was not reflected in blood cortisol level, weight gain or production data. We concluded, that higher frequency of agonistic behaviours is present even at 2.0m2 per animal, and if this is regarded as a sign of social stress recommendations regarding available space per goat should be adjusted. However, keeping goats even at 1m2 per animal did not have any impact on productivity or weight development, suggesting that they easily habituate to sub-optimal environmental conditions.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 147
Issue 1
Pages 117-126
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.04.009
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Tags
  1. Agonistic behavior
  2. Cortisol
  3. Goats
  4. pregnancy
  5. Social behavior
  6. stocking density