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Maternal presence limits the effects of early bottle feeding and petting on lambs' socialisation to the stockperson

Abstract : Mothered herbivores are more fearful towards humans than those reared artificially, However, in previous studies, both human contact and maternal environment factors have been confounded. This paper investigates the influence of early human contact (petting, bottle feeding) given to lambs reared artificially in the presence or absence of the dam, on their socialisation to the stockperson. Forty-eight lambs were studied. From day 1 of age until 7 weeks of age (weaning), half the lambs (M1) were individually reared in the presence of their dam and one twin lamb behind a grid. At weaning the dams were removed. The rest of the lambs (M0) were reared only in the presence of their twin lamb behind the grid. In each M0 or M1 group, half the animals received human contact until 6 days of age (H1), and the other half were not handled (H0). Later, they had no visual contact with humans during husbandry. Response to the stockperson was measured during the initial sessions of human contact. during tests in the rearing pen (at 4 and 9 weeks of age) and in a test pen at 5 and 10 weeks of age. In addition, responses to a novel object in the rearing pen at 3 and 8 weeks of age, and preference for the stockperson or their familiar conspecific(s) (no dam after weaning) at 6 and 11 weeks of age were also measured. During the sessions of human contact, lambs stayed in contact to the stockperson whatever their maternal environment. Later, whatever the age, H1 lambs approached the stockperson more quickly (P < 0.01) and interacted for longer (P < 0.05) in the different tests than H0. However, M0H1 lambs approached the stockperson (P < 0.05) more than the other lambs, even in the choice test (P < 0.01). In addition, M0 animals approached the novel object more than M1 lambs at 3 weeks of age (P < 0.05), but not after weaning, and tried less to rush out into the conspecific(s)'s pen at any age (P < 0.01). The results clearly show the effect of the maternal environment on lambs' socialisation with humans. 'Proximity seeking' of lambs for their darn probably affects the dovelopment of other durable relationships at a young age. The results then raise the question of the contact/separation between the young and its darn in early husbandry management when socialisation of the young to humans is needed as a way to durably improve animal docility,
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Xavier Boivin, Alain Boissy, Raymond Nowak, C. Henry, Hervé Tournadre, et al.. Maternal presence limits the effects of early bottle feeding and petting on lambs' socialisation to the stockperson. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 2002, 77, pp.311-328. ⟨10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00084-9⟩. ⟨hal-02681000⟩



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