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Effect of social housing on the development of feeding behavior and social feeding preferences of dairy calves

, : Effect of social housing on the development of feeding behavior and social feeding preferences of dairy calves. Journal of Dairy Science 99(2): 1406-1417

This study investigated how social housing affects pre- and postweaning feeding behavior and social feeding preferences of dairy calves. Twenty Holstein bull calves were housed either individually (IH; 10 calves) or in pairs (PH; 10 calves) from birth. Calves were offered grain concentrate and milk replacer ad libitum via an artificial teat (1 teat provided per calf) and weaned by incrementally diluting the milk replacer from 39 to 49 d of age. Postweaning, IH calves were paired within treatment and all pens (n=5 per treatment) were offered a complete pelleted diet ad libitum and followed until 13 wk of age. We recorded feeding times from video for 3 consecutive days in wk 6, 9, and 12 of age and used this to calculate daily meal frequency and meal duration. In wk 9 and 12, frequency and duration of synchronized feeding were also calculated. In addition, preference tests were conducted at time of feed delivery in wk 10 to assess the preference of each calf to feed alongside or out of visual contact of their pen mate. Pair-housed calves consumed more concentrate, in more frequent meals, than IH calves in the week before weaning (wk 6) and continued to have greater concentrate intake during weaning. Milk intake was not affected by treatment, but calves in PH pens consumed their milk in more frequent and smaller meals. Postweaning, intake was similar between treatments, but calves raised in PH pens continued to have meals that were more frequent and shorter in duration. Both treatments had a similar frequency of synchronized meals. However, when offered a choice to feed alone or alongside their pen mate during preference testing, calves raised in PH pens spent more time feeding in the presence of their pen mate than calves raised in IH pens. These results suggest that meal patterns established in response to different early social environments may persist after weaning and that early social contact may have longer-term effects on social feeding behavior.


PMID: 26686722

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2015-9869

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