Impact of maternal high stocking density during the dry period on dairy calf health, behaviour, and welfare

May Fujiwara, Marie J. Haskell, Alastair Macrae, Kenneth MD Rutherford

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

Abstract

Abstract: This study aimed to investigate the effect of maternal stocking density during late pregnancy (approximately 60±4 days before calving) on offspring performance during the pre-weaning period. Forty-five dairy calves were born to cows that went through either industry minimum standards (H: n=24, high stocking density) or more extensive space allowances (L: n=21, low stocking density) during the dry period. Body weight and average daily gain during the pre-weaning period (d1-d49) were measured. Observations were made of: i) activity levels (d2-d6); ii) the level of training required to use an automatic feeder, and behavioural reactions to the group environment (d7); iii) feeding and social behaviour in the group pen (d7-d21); and iv) responses to weaning (d40-49) and disbudding (d28+). Compared to L calves, H calves made more frequent social contacts with pen mates in the group pen (P=0.003) and decreased their lying time around weaning (P=0.045). Among the healthy calves, L calves displayed more severe behavioural reactions to the disbudding procedure (P<0.001), a significant increase in salivary cortisol concentrations (P=0.013), and more frequent pain-related behaviour (P=0.036). This study indicated associations between maternal stocking density during late pregnancy and some welfare relevant offspring outcomes during the pre-weaning period; these effects were found to be modulated by offspring health status.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimals
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020

Keywords

  • prenatal stress
  • stocking density
  • pre-weaning period
  • dairy calf behaviour

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