UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Individual Variability in Response to Social Stress in Dairy Heifers Nogues, Emeline; Lecorps, Benjamin; Weary, Daniel M.; von Keyserlingk, Marina A. G.


Regrouping is associated with increased aggression, and disruption of time-budgets. Individuals vary in how well they cope with social stress. Our objective was to describe individual differences in agonistic behavior in dairy heifers after regrouping, and determine how time-budget and behavioral synchronization were affected by these coping strategies. A total of 30 heifers were individually regrouped at 5-months of age into stable groups of 12 unfamiliar animals. For 24 h, agonistic behaviors initiated and received by the regrouped heifer were continuously recorded, and standing, resting and feeding time and synchronization were sampled every 5 min. Scores of engagement in agonistic interactions and avoidance of interactions were calculated for each regrouped heifer. Linear mixed effects models were used to assess whether these two response types were related, and how variation in these responses related to activity and synchronization. Engaged heifers displayed lower avoidance and spent more time feeding. Avoidant heifers spent less time feeding and resting, and were less synchronized while feeding. We conclude that dairy heifers differ in social coping strategy when regrouped through different levels of engagement and avoidance, and that these differences affected their time-budget and behavioral synchronization.

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