Sociability and social behaviour of dairy calves raised in a cow-calf-contact system

Calves are separated from their dams a few hours after birth, placed in individual house pens and fed on milk replacer. This system has welfare and ethical implications on the dam and calf, especially as regards their bonding, natural behaviours like grooming and social behavioural interactions and development. A case-control behavioural observational study was therefore carried out to evaluate the potential effects of early socialization of calves with dams and peers during the first months of life and on later social behaviour and sociability traits. The study's main focus is on the positive welfare of dairy calves. 23 dairy calves that were born in the summer of 2019 were used in the study that consisted of 2 treatments: Cow-calf contact treatment (CCC) (10 dairy calves) and Control treatment (13 dairy calves). Video recording was done and social behaviours of the calves using instantaneous and continuous behavioural observations for at least 6 hours/day for 3 consecutive days was done. A run-way test to evaluate the calves’ sociability and an avoidance distance test to evaluate animals’ fear towards humans and to quantify the human-animal relationship were also applied. Interact a software tool that analyses video behavioural recordings and Minitab a statistical analysis tool were used to analyse three factors: Treatments (CCC and Control), Breed (Swedish red and Swedish Holstein) and Sex (heifer and bull-calf) on the observed behaviours as the dependent response variables of all the animals in the study. Results are yet to be determined and recorded for conclusive reporting.

About me

Maria Mwebaza Nabukalu Animal Science - Master's programme

My name is Maria Mwebaza Nabukalu. I am a Ugandan by birth pursuing a master’s degree in animal Sciences at SLU, Ultuna Campus. I am very enthusiastic about the welfare, health and well-being of animals kept for production purposes as I believe that with good health comes better production and yields for consumption and that is where I picked my interest to study animal science.