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Suckling, weaning, and the development of oral behaviours in dairy calves

Abstract : Dairy calves are generally separated from their dam at birth. They express non-nutritiveoral activities such as licking or sucking other calves or objects, nibbling, or tongue-playing,which have been related to the absence of sucking a teat and ingestive chewing. We hypoth-esized that the dam, by its presence, can help focus the oral behaviour of calves towardsnutritive activities and thereby limit the development of non-nutritive oral activities. Totest this hypothesis, we compared calves suckled by their dam against calves separatedfrom their dam at birth and fed milk through a teat (automatic milk feeder). Cow and calfbehaviour was observed before weaning and after weaning at 10 wk of age.Before weaning, the suckled calves were less active than the artificially fed calves. Afterweaning, suckled calves tended to spend less time on non-nutritive oral activities thannon-suckled calves. Before weaning, suckling cows and non-suckling cows showed sim-ilar behaviour. Both cows and calves reacted to weaning: cows showed vocalization andagitation, and calves showed increased blood cortisol levels.We conclude that keeping dairy calves with their dam for 10 wk can be beneficial tocalves, although weaning induces a degree of stress.
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Isabelle Veissier, Sara Care, Dominique Pomiès. Suckling, weaning, and the development of oral behaviours in dairy calves. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 2013, 147 (1-2), pp.11-18. ⟨10.1016/j.applanim.2013.05.002⟩. ⟨hal-02647729⟩



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