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A Comparison of Weaning Techniques in Farmed Wapiti (Cervus Elaphus)

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Twenty-one wapiti calves, born between 24 May and 4 July were weaned on 5 September. They were weighed, divided into two groups (10 and 11 calves) and either moved to a familiar paddock, adjacent to their dams and allowed fence-line contact (contact wean CW), or moved to a familiar paddock which was visually obscured, and separated from their dams by approximately 50m (remote wean - RW). For the next two days after weaning the calves were observed from dawn until dusk. All observations were done using a 10-minute instantaneous scan sampling technique. Activities recorded included the number of calves standing, walking, lying, fence-line pacing, running, grazing, and feeding at a trough. On day 4 the observation time was reduced to 9 hours and 20 minutes. Observations were continued for a further six days during 2-hour periods after dawn and before dark. The calves were held in these separate paddocks for 10 days and during that time were weighed. After that they were held together in the remote wean paddock and weighed again at 31 and 63 days. There were no significant differences in the amount of time spent grazing between the two groups and there were no differences in weight gains between the groups throughout the trial. The CW calves vocalized less and spent less time standing, walking, fence-line pacing and running compared to RW calves. The CW calves were also observed spending more time lying and feeding at the trough. Overall, the CW calves displayed fewer behaviours indicative of the distress following weaning.
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Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; CERVUS ELAPHUS; DEER FARMING; WAPITI; WEANING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1997-08-01

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