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Fence Line Pacing in Farmed Red Deer Hinds at Calving

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The frequency, intensity and location of fence line pacing were observed daily, in four groups of six farmed red deer hinds, over a 3-week period at calving. The groups were confined in neighbouring paddocks (5000m2 in area; two containing a wooden shelter) adjacent to deer yards containing an observation hide. At 1l00h, a person entered each paddock to weigh, sex and tag newborn calves.

Pacing (moving parallel to and within 0.5m of a fence line) was mainly at walking speed, and its frequency differed according to the time relative to parturition. It was recorded in 13.6 (± 1.09) per cent of observations during the period 2-4 to days before calving, increased to 27.6 (± 1.9) per cent on the day before birth and then declined to 4.6 (± 0.39) per cent for the period of 0-3 days after calving. Pacing relative to total movement was greater before (65.7%) than after (43.5%) parturition (SED 3.7%; P < 0.001), indicating that it was not just a consequence of greater activity before birth. The hinds were observed to be grouped together rather than distributed randomly, but when some of the hinds were pacing. groups were spread out over more quarters of the paddock than when none were pacing (P < 0.001). However, there was no definite suggestion of avoidance of other deer. Within each group, most pacing occurred along certain fence lines, but no general pattern was observed. Regardless of whether hinds had given birth or not, there were graded increases in pacing depending on the degree of human presence (not presentP< < 0.05); and deer favoured areas distant from human presence (P < 0.01). The findings in relation to fence line pacing and location support suggestions that human interference at calving should be minimized, but did not indicate which environmental features were responsible for this motivational drive.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1998-08-01

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