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Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2001 May 2;72(3):189-199.

Effect of milkflow rate and presence of a floating nipple on abnormal sucking between dairy calves.

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Department of Animal Environment and Health, Section of Ethology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 234, SE-532 23, Skara, Sweden


The aim of this study was to investigate if access to an artificial teat compared to an open bucket would decrease abnormal sucking in calves held in pairs, and if the calves would perform less abnormal sucking if they spent more time drinking or sucking the milk. In total 16 calves of Swedish Red and White cattle housed in pairs were used. The eight groups were given 2.5l of whole milk per calf, twice a day in one of the following treatments; bucket with fast flow (control), bucket with slow flow, floating nipple with fast flow and floating nipple with slow flow. All groups were subjected to the four different treatments in a random balanced order. Two buckets were connected with a rubber pipe in order to control the milk flow. In the fast treatments, the milk poured from one bucket to the other in 40s, and in the slow treatments the milk poured from one bucket to the other in 10min. Each group had the treatment for 6 days before behavioural observations were done on day 7. These were made by instantaneous recordings at 20s intervals for 30min, starting when the calves received their milk in the morning and afternoon. The number of recordings of abnormal sucking was lower than the control in all treatments (P<0.001). The lowest recording of abnormal sucking was found, when the calves had both a floating nipple and a slow flow. Sucking on other objects in the pen had the highest number of recordings, when they had a nipple and a fast flow (P<0.01), but the sucking on the empty nipple represented 95% of this category. The calves tended to lick and bite more on the bucket, the nipple and pen fittings in the two treatments with fast flow (P<0.1) than in the slow treatment with nipple. It is concluded that both the performance of sucking and the time taken to ingest milk are important in order to decrease abnormal sucking between calves.


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