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How do visual and auditory cues influence calf stress reactions at weaning?

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We investigated the effects of visual and auditory information related to cow and calf stress responses at weaning. Three weaning conditions were established with physical separation only (PS), physical and visual separation (VS), and physical, visual and auditory separation (VAS). Stress responses such as vocalization and self‐grooming, and changes of three maintenance behaviors (lying, walking and grazing) were recorded for experimental cows and calves in the respective conditions. Comparison of the data revealed that the cow responses differed slightly among groups. However, the peak frequency of vocalization was higher in the PS calves than in those of either VS or VAS. Self‐grooming frequency was significantly different in calves and was high in the order of VAS, VS and PS calves. Furthermore, the percentage of time spent lying down was greater, and that of walking was less, in VAS calves than in either VS or PS calves. These results demonstrate that different information at weaning might strongly affect the stress responses of calves but not those of cows. Relative impacts of different types sensory information on stressors must be considered to plan animal‐friendly weaning.
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Keywords: animal welfare; calves; sensory information; stress; weaning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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