Effect of the number of concentrate feeding places per pen on performance, behavior, and welfare indicators of Friesian calves during the first month after arrival at the feedlot

L. A. González, A. Ferret, X. Manteca, J. L. Ruíz-de-la-Torre, S. Calsamiglia, M. Devant, A. Bach

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Abstract

Seventy-two Friesian calves (BW = 102.0 + 1.8 kg) were bought from a commercial calf farm and distributed to a factorial arrangement of treatments in a complete block design with 3 treatments and 3 blocks of similar fasted BW to study the effect of increasing the number of feeding places per pen on performance, behavior, and welfare indicators during the 4 wk after arrival. Treatments consisted of 1 (T1), 2 (T2), or 4 (T4) concentrate feeding places/pen (8 calves/pen). Concentrate and straw were fed at 0830 in individual feeders, and animals were allowed to consume on an ad libitum basis. Dry matter intake and ADG were recorded weekly, and blood samples were taken on d 0 (before transport), 7, 14, 21, and 28. Time spent in maintenance activities, number of displacements between calves, and the angular dominance value (ADV) were registered at wk 1 and 3 after arrival. Increasing the number of feeding places per pen resulted in a quadratic response of concentrate and total DMI, ADG, and BW during the 28-d period, with T1 showing the lowest values. Straw intake and the within-pen SD of ADG tended to decrease linearly (P = 0.10) as the number of feeding places per pen increased. During the 4-wk receiving period, and particularly on d 7 after arrival, serum NEFA responded quadratically, with T1 and T2 calves showing the greatest values. With increasing number of concentrate feeders, the average time spent lying increased (P = 0.001), standing time decreased linearly (P = 0.001), and the diurnal feeding pattern changed (concentrate eating time increased but straw eating time decreased during peak feeding times, P < 0.05). The number of displacements from the concentrate feeders responded quadratically (P < 0.001) with increasing number of feeding places per pen, with T4 calves showing the lowest levels of aggression. In T1 calves, increasing ADV resulted in a linear decrease (P = 0.03) of ADG at wk 1 with a quadratic effect at wk 3 (P < 0.01). In T2 calves, increasing ADV resulted in a linear decrease (P = 0.04) of ADG at wk 1 but a linear increase (P = 0.02) at wk 3. No effect of social rank on ADG was observed in T4 calves (P > 0.20). Increasing social pressure at the concentrate feeders beyond the threshold of 4 heifers per feeder had a negative effect on performance. Within-pen variability in performance increased linearly as a consequence of greater effects of social dominance. Physiological indicators of welfare were not consistently affected by treatments. ©2008 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-431
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume86
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008

Keywords

  • Behavior
  • Calf
  • Feeding place
  • Performance
  • Welfare

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