Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Early separation of cow and calf has long-term effects on social behaviour

28.04.2015

Calves of dairy cows are generally separated from their mothers within the first 24 hours after birth. The majority of the milk thus enters the food market and not the stomachs of the calves. However, growing up without a mother has consequences. Scientists at the Vetmeduni Vienna studied the long-term effects of early maternal deprivation. Their study shows that calves which have contact to their mothers or to other cows during rearing become more sociable adults. The results of the study were published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Drinking milk is a big tradition in Austria. The country produces 3.4 million tons of milk a year. To help achieve this volume, dairy cows are typically separated from their calves just a few hours after giving birth. The calves are then fed milk or milk substitute via bucket or from an automatic feeder.


Contact to mothers and to other cows, makes calves more sociable and socially competent as adults.

Photo: Kathrin Wagner/Vetmeduni Vienna

The amount of milk the calves receive is usually much less than they would drink from their mothers. Calves and cows are therefore unable to form a relationship. After a few days or weeks in single housing, the young animals are usually transferred to a calf group.

Early separation has long-term effects

“Research has shown that the early social environment affects behaviour, stress reactivity and the ability to cope with different challenges in various animal species,” says project leader Susanne Waiblinger from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare. Waiblinger and first author Kathrin Wagner studied these effects in dairy cows. A previously published substudy by the researchers already showed that rearing with maternal contact gives rise to adults with higher social competence.

Together with a group of colleagues from the Vetmeduni Vienna and the Thünen Institute of Organic Farming in Germany, Wagner and Waiblinger examined a total of 26 differently reared cows. Eleven animals were separated from their mothers immediately after birth before entering the calf group and being fed milk via automatic feeder.

The remaining 15 calves were kept with their mothers in the calving pen for the first five days and were able to establish a mother-calf bond during this time. These calves were then also moved to the calf area, but continued to have contact to their mothers. Nine of these calves were allowed access to their mothers twice a day, while the remaining six were able to move between the calf group and the cow herd at all times.

The scientists performed different tests with the grown-up animals to determine whether the different rearing strategies had a long-term effect on the behaviour of the animals in stress situations.

Animals reared with maternal contact are more active in stress situations

“Cattle are herd animals. As expected, all animals, whether they were reared with or without mothers, produced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol when being isolated from the herd, ” Waiblinger explains. Cattle which grew up with their mothers expressed the highest levels of cortisol during isolation, but the heart rate measured in these animals was the lowest. Waiblinger explains: “There are fundamentally different reaction types. Some animals respond to stress situations with an increased heart rate, others produce cortisol. It is possible that the different rearing treatments result in different reaction types.”

Differences could also be seen in the animals’ behaviour. Calves reared with their mothers, especially those who had constant maternal contact as well as contact to the herd, were more active during isolation: they moved more in their calving boxes and explored their surroundings more actively than cattle reared without their mothers. This could indicate a higher level of motivation to rejoin the herd and a more active way to cope with the challenge of isolation.

The research shows that a richer social environment during rearing, i.e. with contact to mothers and to other cows, makes animals more sociable and socially competent as adults.

Mother-bonded rearing of dairy calves is already in use at a number of farms. “In the future, we must increasingly consider whether a socially restricted early environment represents the ideal form of animal husbandry,” Waiblinger argues.
The study formed part of Kathrin Wagner’s doctoral thesis in the BIOREC (Biological Responses to Environmental Challenges) Doctoral College. BIOREC is concerned with stress responses in different species of vertebrates. https://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/phd/biorec

Service:
The article “Effects of mother versus artificial rearing during the first 12 weeks of life on challenge responses of dairy cows”, by Kathrin Wagner, Daniel Seitner, Kerstin Barth, Rupert Palme, Andreas Futschik and Susanne Waiblinger was published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2014.12.010 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159114003293

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Susanne Waiblinger
Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare
University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
T +43 1 25077-4905
M +43 664 60257-6966
susanne.waiblinger@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153
susanna.kautschitsch@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2015/...

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>