In dairy systems with Zebu breeds, calves are not immediately separated from their dams after calving; consequently, maternal care and protective behavior are important, influencing both productive performance and stockpeople’s safety. Our objectives were to: (1) investigate the effects of a training protocol involving pre-calving positive stimulation, delivered prior to calving, on the maternal care of primiparous Gyr cows; and (2) evaluate the effects of this training protocol on maternal protective behavior towards handlers during the first calf handling. Primiparous dairy Gyr cows (n = 37) were allocated into two groups: training (n = 16) and control (n = 21). Animal behaviors were recorded in three periods: post-calving, first calf handling, and post-handling. Maternal protective behavior during calf handling was assessed from measures of aggressiveness, attention, displacement, and agitation. Calf latency to stand up (p < 0.01) and sex (p < 0.01) differed between the training and control groups. The training group had less touching (p = 0.03), more time not interacting with the calf (p = 0.03), tended to be less protective (p = 0.056), and moved less (p < 0.01) during the first handling of their calves. In conclusion, the primiparous dairy Gyr cows subjected to pre-calving training protocol displayed less maternal care and displacement during the first handling of their calves and tended to be less protective.
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