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The presence of the dam affects the efficiency of gentling and feeding on the early establishment of the stockperson-lamb relationship

By X. Boivin, R. Nowak, A. Terrazas Garcia

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This experiment investigates how the maternal presence influences the effect of additional human contact in early age on the reaction of lambs to their stockperson. 40 twin-born lambs were involved in this experiment during their first 4 days of life. 10 pairs of twins were reared artificially from 12 h of age. One of each litter (AF, n=10) received 6.5+or-0.7 sessions of 30 min of separation from the twin (with a wire fence) with 5 min of gentling and feeding (suckling from a bottle and from a bucket fitted with a rubber teat). The other twin was not treated. 10 pairs of twins were reared with their dam and received 6.6+or-0.7 sessions of treatment. One twin (MAF, n=10) received the same treatment as AF. The other twin (M, n=10) was separated for 30 min from the dam and had no human contact. From the age of 70+or-7 h, lambs were tested in a social isolation test (alone for 1 min, with the familiar stockman for 2 min, alone again for 1 min), in a Preference test (2 min) between an unfamiliar maternal ewe and the familiar stockman, and, for the AF lambs only, in a Preference test (2 min) between their familiar and an unfamiliar stockman. Eight AF lambs learned to suck on their own from the bucket of milk by the end of the experiment compared to only one MAF (P<0.001). AF lambs approached the human more (P<0.01), vocalized less (P<0.01) and walked less (P<0.01) during the social isolation test than animals reared with their mother (M and MAF). AF did not show any preference between the stockman and the unfamiliar maternal ewe while M and MAF lambs chose the ewe (P<0.05). AF lambs discriminated the familiar from an unfamiliar stockman only if they had learned to suck from the bucket during the treatment. Nevertheless MAF lambs vocalized less than M (P<0.05) in the presence of the stockman during the social isolation test, indicating a possible reduction of isolation distress. These results show that artificially reared lambs are preferentially motivated to interact with a familiar human after only a few days of contact. Moreover, they highlight the difficulty in using a feeding reward to improve the human-lamb relationship when lambs are reared permanently with their dams. However, the results suggest that early gentling improves the human-animal relationship whatever the maternal environment.

Date 2001
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 72
Issue 2
Pages 89-103
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(00)00201-X
Language English
Author Address URH-ACS, INRA Theix, F-63122, ST Genes Champanelle, France.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Age
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Artificial rearing
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Feeding
  7. Gentling
  8. Hand rearing
  9. Lambs
  10. Learning
  11. Mammals
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Primates
  14. Ruminants
  15. Sheep
  16. Social behavior
  1. peer-reviewed