Title: The effect of environmental enrichment on the behaviour of beef calves
Authors: Bulens, Anneleen
Van Beirendonck, Sanne
Van Thielen, Jos
Driessen, Bert
Issue Date: Sep-2014
Publisher: WAFL
Host Document: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level pages:135-135
Conference: Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level edition:6 location:Clermont-Ferrand, France date:3-5 September 2014
Abstract: The objective of the present study was to investigate possible effects of environmental enrichment on the behaviour and extent of coat contamination of beef calves. In total, 180 Holstein beef calves were followed for a period of 20 weeks from the age of two weeks. Feeding ration and housing conditions were similar for all calves. After arriving on the farm, calves were given an adaptation period of four weeks. After this period, they were divided into three groups: pen with Jolly Ball™ (10 pens), pen with cattle brush (10 pens) and barren pen (control group) (10 pens).
Each pen housed 6 calves. Jolly Balls™ were hung at an altitude of 1.3m, in the middle of the pen. Cattle brushes were attached to the pen wall at an altitude of 1.2m.
Behavioural observations were carried out two days a week, according to a scan sample method. All observations were performed by the same observer and the ethogram used was based on existing literature. Next to behaviour, the extent of coat contamination of the calves was scored three times throughout the study.
Data were analysed using the statistical software program SAS 9.3. Behavioural data lacked normality and were therefore analysed using a logistic mixed model. Contamination data were analyzed using a Fisher’s Exact Test.
Behavioural results indicate that calves of the control group, without environmental enrichment, lied down more than calves in the enriched pens (P < 0.0001). They also ran (P < 0.0001) and jumped around (P < 0.0001) less than the other calves. Results also revealed a difference in social behaviour; animals in enriched pens displayed more social behaviour (P < 0.0001) than calves in non-enriched pens. There were also differences between the different forms of enrichment. In pens with a cattle brush, animals self-groomed less (P = 0.0004) than those in control or Jolly Ball™-pens. However, there was no difference in playing behaviour between calves with the cattle brush or the Jolly Ball™. Results also indicated no association between treatment groups concerning extent of coat contamination.
As a conclusion, environmental enrichment in the form of Jolly Balls™ or cattle brushes did not influence the extent of coat contamination of beef calves but did have a positive influence on their behaviour. Calves in enriched pens displayed more playing and social behavior compared to calves in non-enriched pens. The two forms of enrichment tested in this study both equally induced play behaviour in calves, so both forms can be applied successfully to enrich the otherwise barren environment of beef calves.
ISBN: 978-90-8686-247-4
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Bioengineering Technology TC, Technology Campus Geel
Division of Gene Technology (-)
Technologiecluster Bioengineering Technologie

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