The effect of pair housing on dairy calf health, performance, and behavior

BUČKOVÁ, Katarína, ŠÁROVÁ, Radka, MORAVCSÍKOVÁ, Ágnes a ŠPINKA, Marek. The effect of pair housing on dairy calf health, performance, and behavior. Journal of Dairy Science, 2021, 104, 10282-10290. ISSN 0022-0302.
Kateg. publikaceVědecké publikace impaktované
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Individual housing of dairy calves prevails in Europe and North America despite its negative effects on calf development. One of the main reasons is that farmers find individual housing of calves more practical than group housing. A compromise between practice and welfare could be housing calves in pairs. Therefore, we aimed to compare health, feed intake, growth, and behavior in a novel arena of 22 individually (INDI) and 44 pair-housed calves that were randomly assigned a treatment. Diarrhea and respiratory problems were recorded every day for the period of 49 d. Intake of calf starter and milk were measured every day for the period 48 and 49 d, respectively. Calf body weight gains were calculated as average daily gain. Calves were individually tested in a novel arena at 11 to 18 d, and their behavior was recorded according to an ethogram including 8 behavioral categories. Behavioral categories were first diminished by principal component (PC) analysis. We found that 2 PC explained 66% of the total variation in calf behavior. Movement-related behaviors (activity, play, and crossing the stair) loaded positively on PC1, and PC2 had positive loading on self-grooming and negative loading on exploration. There were no effects of housing on calf health, feed intake, or average daily gain. The INDI calves had higher PC1 scores than pair-housed calves, indicating a rebound effect of movement. Our results are consistent with other studies that found no negative effect of pair housing of calves on their health, feed intake, or growth compared with individually-housed calves. The rebound effect of movement-related behaviors of INDI calves in a novel arena implies that individual housing of calves causes activity deprivation by the second week of age.

ProjektDlouhodobý koncepční rozvoj výzkumné organizace