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 Climate change, population growth may lead to open ocean aquaculture
05.10.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht New machine evaluates soybean at harvest for quality
04.10.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>