Effects of Housing in Different Social Environments on Open-field and Social Responses of Female Dairy Calves
To investigate the effect of social contact during early development on open-field responses and social responses, 80 female dairy calves were housed either in open single pens (SOpen), closed single pens (SClosed), calf-groups (GCalf), or groups of calves and cows (GCow) until 3 months of age. During the first 3 months, the calves were open-field tested at 2 and 10 weeks of age. Calves isolated in closed single pens (SClosed) performed more exploration during the open-field tests at 2 and 10 weeks of age than did calves housed in open single pens (SOpen). During the open-field test after the experimental period at 6 months of age, previously isolated calves (SClosed) had a longer latency to enter an open-field arena, and during a social test at this stage group-reared calves (GCalf and GCow) sniffed and mounted other calves more than calves housed in single pens (SOpen and SClosed). The results suggest that isolation increases the motivation to explore a novel environment, and that housing in groups facilitates the development of normal social responses.