Effects of prompt versus stepwise relocation to a novel environment on foals' responses to weaning in domestic horses (Equus caballus)

DUBCOVÁ, Jana, BARTOŠOVÁ, Jitka a KOMÁRKOVÁ, Martina. Effects of prompt versus stepwise relocation to a novel environment on foals' responses to weaning in domestic horses (Equus caballus). Journal of Veterinary Behavior-Clinical Applications and Research , 2015, 10, 346-352. ISSN 1558-7878.
Kateg. publikaceVědecké publikace impaktované
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Artificial weaning is often highly stressful for both mother and offspring. We investigated the effect of 2 different weaning and relocation schedules on growth rate and saliva cortisol concentrations in a group of loose-housed domestic horses. We predicted higher acute stress (cortisol concentrations), but a lower long-term effect on weight gain, which would indicate lower chronic stress in foals, if the foals were moved to the new environment immediately after separation from the mothers (prompt relocation [PR]) compared with relocation that was adjourned for a week (stepwise relocation [SWR]). Within 2 seasons, 56 foals weaned at age of 165-250 days were regularly weighed up to 140 days after weaning. Growth rate significantly differed between SWR and PR foals. The PR weanlings revealed relatively stable increase in their weights, whereas SWR foals experienced a significant drop in growth during the first 3 weeks after weaning. The weight differences were still apparent 5 months after weaning (predicted weight, least squares means ± standard error: 374.40 ± 1.75 kg in PR vs. 362.71 ± 1.66 kg in SWR foals). Cortisol concentrations changed significantly between and within different weaning procedures and were highest in PR foals after weaning and relocation. Compared with pre-weaning values, cortisol levels increased in PR but not in SWR foals, either after weaning or deferred moving. We found large individual variability in foals‘ growth and in cortisol concentrations for both weaning procedures. There was also a year effect in SWR foals. Stepwise changes of the physical and social environment (deferred removal to the remote facility) within a short period after abrupt weaning resulted in lower acute stress but induced long-term negative effects on foals‘ growth rate compared with joint weaning and relocation. Our results support rather prompt moving of the weanlings to the new facility, rather than to a stepwise location on horse breeding farms.

ProjektStudium hlavních faktorů ovlivňujících stabilitu trvale udržitelného systému obhospodařování travních porostů v České republice, Rozvoj hospodářských zvířat v multifunkčním zemědělství