UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Food neophobia, feeding and sorting behaviour in dairy calves Costa, Joao Henrique Cardoso


Standard practice within the dairy industry is to separate calves from the dam immediately after birth and raise calves in individual pens during the milk-feeding period with little or no contact with conspecifics. I reviewed empirical work (Chapter 2) on the social development of calves, the effects of social isolation and the practices associated with group housing of dairy calves. From this review I identified literature gaps that were explored in the following chapters. In Chapter 3, I explored how pairing age affects performance and feeding behaviour development in dairy calves. Early pairing (3 d of age) increased solid feed intake and weight gains in comparison to late-pairing (42 d of age) and individual housing. In Chapter 4, I investigated how individual housing of calves affects food neophobia. The results suggested that calves raised in a complex social environment are less reluctant to ingest new feed types. Chapter 5 investigated whether being grouped with experienced dairy cows would affect the development of grazing behaviours in pregnant dairy heifers first introduced to pasture. The results indicated that grouping heifers with pasture-experienced cows improves grazing behaviour in the first hours following introduction to pasture. Chapter 6 assessed whether weaned calves would sort a total mixed ration (TMR) and if sorting was affected by the availability of a separate grain source. I found that calves can sort a total mixed ration and that the provision of a separate source of concentrate reduces sorting. I conclude that calves raised in more complex social environments early in life experience benefits related to feeding behaviour development, performance, ability to cope with novelty, and that experienced companions can be used to mitigate stress associated with novelty.

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