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Linder, Victoria, 2020. Gentling dairy calves : behavioural responses during brushing. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



The human-animal relationship is important from an ethical standpoint as it influences the welfare of both animals and stockpeople. The importance of positive aspects of animal welfare, such as rewards and pleasures, have gained increasing interest in recent years. Focus is shifting from merely reducing aversive experiences for animals, to creating opportunities for pleasurable experiences and rewards. Gentling involves additional positive contact, to that of routine management, and can include stroking, brushing and/or talking in a soft way to the animals.
This study explored the immediate behavioural responses of dairy calves that were gently brushed for 30 minutes two times a day for ten consecutive days. They were housed individually in a controlled environment, to ensure high health status and minimize the effect of disease. Video recordings of the treatment sessions from day 1, 2, 5, and 10 were analysed for the 16 calves included in the study, of which half were submitted to gentle brushing by a human and the rest to a control treatment. Calves that were gently brushed played more often and for a longer time than control calves and exhibited a higher proportion of neck-stretching as well as exploratory behaviour within the pen. Possible reasons for this could be that the calves lived in a barren environment and the availability of social interactions with the handler and the brushing may have been perceived as stimulus for excitement in the calves. Gentling of dairy calves early in life showed immediate positive effect on behaviours possibly indicative of pleasurable experiences, hence improving the animal welfare which emphasizes the significance of a good human-animal relationship.
Since gentling of shelter cats has shown indications of enhanced emotional wellbeing and increased levels of IgA, it would be of interest to further investigate if gentling of dairy calves on commercial dairy farms could induce physiological alterations which improve the mucosal immunity, possibly resulting in healthier cows in less need of treatments with antibiotics during their life and thus prevent antimicrobial resistance and increase the profitability for the farmer.

Main title:Gentling dairy calves
Subtitle:behavioural responses during brushing
Authors:Linder, Victoria
Supervisor:de Oliveira, Daiana and Keeling, Linda
Examiner:Andersson, Maria
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2020
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:VY001 Agricultural Science Programme - Animal Science 270 HEC
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:brushing, human-animal relationship, calves, behaviour, positive emotions, positive welfare
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Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal husbandry
Deposited On:14 Dec 2020 09:39
Metadata Last Modified:15 Dec 2020 02:00

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