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J Dairy Sci. 2014 Dec;97(12):7804-10. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8392. Epub 2014 Oct 11.

Complex social housing reduces food neophobia in dairy calves.

Author information

1
Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
2
Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada. Electronic address: danweary@mail.ubc.ca.

Abstract

Animals are often reluctant to consume novel feeds. Research suggests that social housing can reduce fearfulness in animals. The aim of this study was to test the prediction that social housing reduces food neophobia in dairy calves. Beginning immediately at birth, Holstein bull calves were either reared individually (n=18) or in a complex social group with other calves and cows (n=18). In food neophobia tests, calves were exposed to 2 identical buckets, one empty and the other filled with a novel food (chopped hay in trial 1 and chopped carrots in trial 2). Calves were tested for 30 min/d on 3 consecutive days starting at 70 d of age. Regardless of the type of food, socially housed calves consumed more of the novel feed compared with individually housed calves. In trial 1, intake of hay as fed averaged 35 ± 6 versus 18 ± 6 g/d for socially versus individually housed calves. In trial 2, intake of chopped carrots as fed averaged 27 ± 6 versus 6 ± 6 g/d for socially versus individually housed calves, respectively. Social rearing decreased the latency to eat the novel feed. Calves housed in a complex social group began eating the hay after 1:23 ± 1:13 versus 3:58 ± 1:10 min:s for individually housed calves. Latency to begin eating the chopped carrots averaged 3:09 ± 1:17 versus 6:38 ± 1:13 min:s for socially versus individually housed calves. Treatment had no effect on time spent eating, latency to approach the food bucket or the empty bucket in either trial, or on time spent manipulating the empty bucket. These results indicate that housing dairy calves in a complex social group reduces food neophobia. More generally, this study contributes to a series of studies showing that calves raised in more complex social environments may be better able to transition to other changes in their environment.

KEYWORDS:

dietary transition; feeding behavior; group housing; weaning

PMID:
25306284
DOI:
10.3168/jds.2014-8392
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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