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Enhancement of performances in a learning task in suckler calves after weaning and relocation: Motivational versus cognitive control? A pilot study

Abstract : Weaning in suckler calves influences performance in a learning task. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the improved performance after weaning, including relocation, is due to differences in motivation for the reward or in learning abilities. Forty Aubrac calves were used; half of them were weaned from their dams at around eight months, the other half were weaned one month later. After weaning, calves were housed in groups of four in a new setting. From the day after weaning of the last group of calves, the animals were subjected to two tests: (1) an arena test, (2) a T-maze test where one arm led to either a social or a food reward. The T-maze test consisted of three sessions: in Session 1, trials were conducted until the animal acquired the task (i.e. did not take the unrewarded arm on three consecutive trials); in Session 2, the motivation for the reward was assessed via the walking time of the animal to reach the reward; in Session 3, the place of reward was reversed and the animals were trained until they acquired the new task. Calves weaned for one day explored more (P < 0.05) and had lower heart rates during the arena test (P < 0.05) compared to the ones weaned for one month. During the T-maze test, calves weaned for one month versus one day did not differ in their capacities to learn the initial route (Session 1) or in their motivation for either the social or food reward (Session 2). Calves weaned for one day learned significantly faster (P < 0.05) the reversed route (Session 3) than calves weaned for one month. Hence, the better performances at reversal in the T-maze by calves that have just been weaned cannot be accounted for by a higher motivation for the reward. A better cognitive control of their behaviour due to a lower stress state is suggested by our results
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Submitted on : Friday, May 29, 2020 - 8:55:51 PM
Last modification on : Friday, November 26, 2021 - 6:46:04 PM

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  • HAL Id : hal-02653409, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 18373

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Bernardus Johan Lensink, Isabelle Veissier, Alain Boissy. Enhancement of performances in a learning task in suckler calves after weaning and relocation: Motivational versus cognitive control? A pilot study. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 2006, 100 (3-4), pp.171-181. ⟨hal-02653409⟩

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