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Choice of attractive conditions by beef cattle in a Y-maze just after release from restraint: Effect of sheep

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To provide useful information on how to moderate post-handling stress, Angus heifers (n = 157) were individually allowed to enter a choice area after 2 min of restraint in a crush and to choose between two pens. After the animal had chosen a pen, free access was given to both test pens and the choice area for a further 5 min. The behaviors during choice and after the first choosing were observed. In experiment 1, each heifer was given one of the following choices: pen with three familiar heifers (peers) versus pen with six sheep (sheep; n = 30); peers versus the bare pen (bare; n = 30); sheep versus bare (n = 30). When the choice combination was peers versus bare, more heifers than expected by chance chose the peers pen (2 = 4.80; P < 0.05). However, when one of the other choice combinations was given, there was no significant difference between the number choosing a pen and the expected value. After the first choice, more heifers entered the peers pen than the bare pen (P < 0.05) or the sheep pen (P < 0.10). In experiment 2, another 67 heifers were given one of the following choices: peers versus pen with a novel object (NO; n = 19); sheep versus NO (n = 22); bare versus NO (n = 26). There was no significant difference between the number of heifers choosing a pen and the expected value in any choice combination. However, more heifers entered the peers pen than the NO pen (P < 0.01). It is concluded that sheep were not as attractive as peers, but sheep were not fearful animals for cattle.
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Keywords: beef cattle; preference test; restraint; social motivation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Agricultural Research Center, NSW Agriculture, Trangie, New South Wales, Australia 2: School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Sagamihara-shi, Japan and

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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