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Barren diets increase wakeful inactivity in calves

By Laura E. Webb, Bas Engel, Kees van Reenen, Eddie A. M. Bokkers

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Inactivity is a vastly understudied behavioural category, which may reflect positive or negative affective states in captive or domesticated animals. Increased inactivity in barren-housed animals, in combination with an increased or decreased interest in stimuli, e.g. novel objects, can indicate boredom or apathy. Another theory is that inactivity is an alternative strategy to stereotypies to cope with sub-optimal conditions. The aim of this study was to further our understanding of inactive behaviours and possible associated negative affective states in intensively raised calves fed different diets. In two separate experiments, Holstein-Friesian veal calves (N=40+160) were fed barren or enriched diets: 1) imposed/restricted diet versus free dietary choice (experiment 1); 2) no additional straw versus ad libitum provision of straw (experiment 2); 3) low versus high solid feed provision (experiment 2); 4) bucket versus automated milk dispenser for milk replacer feeding, with high or low solid feed provision (experiment 2). Inactive behaviours, i.e. experiment 1: lie, idle and sleep; experiment 2: lie idle, stand idle, and sleep, were recorded at two ages (experiment 1: 12 and 26wk; experiment 2: 15 and 24wk) using instantaneous scan sampling. In experiment 2, latency to touch two novel objects was recorded at 15 and 24wk. No differences in inactivity were found between calves with a restricted or free choice diet (experiment 1). However, calves fed the more barren diets in experiment 2 showed more lying idle at 24wk of age, and calves with no ad libitum straw in particular, showed more standing idle at 24wk of age (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 197
Pages 9-14
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Calves
  3. Diets
  4. stereotypes