Effect of a mechanical grooming brush on the behavior and health of recently weaned heifer calves Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • BACKGROUND: Calf stress at weaning and during transition to group pens represents a concern in dairy operations. Favoring natural behaviors, such as grooming, may help on reducing this challenge. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of a mechanical grooming brush on behavior and health of recently weaned calves, after transferring from individual to group housing. Two treatment groups (control [CON, n = 81]; automated brush [AB, n = 81]) were compared enrolling Holstein heifers (94 ± 7 d old) that were monitored for 20 days. Four cohorts, considering one CON and one AB group (19-20 calves/pen/cohort) were enrolled sequentially. Each calf was weighed, clinically evaluated, and affixed with a 3-D accelerometer sensor attached to the ear at enrolment. Continuous measurements (min/h) were generated for the following behaviors: Not-active, active, highly active, eating, and ruminating. Cameras for continuous video recording were installed in each pen, and calves were weighted at the last day of the study (d 20). Behavioral data were summarized as daily averages (min/h). Data was examined using repeated measures analysis for nested factors, with day as the time unit. RESULTS: Overall, calves had their first interaction with the brush within 2.5 days with a mean (SE) of 7 (±9.6) h after being transferred to group pens. A significant effect was determined for the interaction day by treatment on the time spent not-active and eating. Average not-active time was greater in CON compared to AB (22.8 ± 0.82 min/h vs. 21.7 ± 0.82 min/h), while eating time was greater in AB compared with CON (7.01 ± 0.40 min/h vs. 6.43 ± 0.40 min/h). Treatment groups had a similar weight gain and time to the first disease. CONCLUSIONS: We concluded that the use of a mechanical brush influenced behavior, reducing not-active time, while increasing eating time. The consequences of this change in activity require further investigation.

author list (cited authors)

  • Velasquez-Munoz, A., Manriquez, D., Paudyal, S., Solano, G., Han, H., Callan, R., Velez, J., & Pinedo, P.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • December 2019