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Journal Articles Applied Animal Behaviour Science Year : 2001

The effect of early handling on the socialisation of young calves to humans


The effects of handling at different times after birth on the subsequent response to humans was investigated using 40 Danish Friesian calves removed from their dams immediately after birth. Treatments were feeding and handling during days 1-4 after birth (H1-4), during days 6-9 (H6-9), or during days 11-14 (H11-14), and no handling (C: control). The handling treatment was carried out three times daily for 4 days and consisted of 6 min of hand-feeding with milk from a teat-bucket and patting, stroking and talking to the calf. All calves were housed in single pens. Human contact was minimised except during the treatment periods. The approach behaviour of each calf to an unknown person was tested at days 20, 40 and 55 in their home pen. The test at day 55 was carried out in a large single pen where the calves had been housed for 24 h prior to the test. Latency to interact with the person was shorter in all three tests for calves in H1-4 compared to C. There was no significant difference between H11-14 and C. Group H6-9 differed only from the control group at day 20. Treatment also affected the position and the orientation of the calf in the pen during the tests. Calves in H1-4 stood at the front of the pen and faced the person more often than calves in C. There was no difference between H11-14 and the C. All the three handled treatments had a shorter flight distance at day 55 compared to the control group. The results indicate that handling and hand-feeding, especially during the first 4 days after birth, increases the motivation of young calves to approach a human compared with calves that receive minimal human contact.

Dates and versions

hal-02674259 , version 1 (31-05-2020)



C.C. Krohn, J.G. Jago, Xavier Boivin. The effect of early handling on the socialisation of young calves to humans. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2001, 74 (4), pp.121-133. ⟨10.1016/S0168-1591(01)00161-7⟩. ⟨hal-02674259⟩


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