CZAAWE Resource Article

Pair housing and enhanced milk allowance increase play behavior and improve performance in dairy calves
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2015
Authors 
Publication/Journal 
Journal of Dairy Science
ISBN 
0022-0302
Abstract 
To investigate the effects of social housing and milk feeding on play behavior and performance, 48 Holstein-Friesian male and female calves were either individually or pair housed in straw-bedded pens (3.0 m × 4.5 m). Half of the calves in each housing treatment were fed a standard milk allowance (5 L/d from d 3 to 42); the other calves were fed an enhanced milk allowance (9 L/d from d 3 to 28 and 5 L/d from d 29 to 42). All calves were abruptly weaned on d 43. Play behavior was recorded for 48 h beginning on d 15, 29, and 43. Variables were square root–transformed before analysis, but back-transformed values are given. On d 15 the duration of locomotor play behavior was greater among enhanced- than standard-fed calves [15.2 vs. 10.8 (±1.0) corresponding to 231 vs. 117 s/24 h]; this behavior decreased when milk allowance in the enhanced treatment was reduced on d 29. Across ages, the duration of locomotor play behavior was greater among individually housed than pair-housed calves [10.9 vs. 8.2 (±0.6) corresponding to 119 vs. 67 s/24 h], but the total duration of play did not differ between individual and pair-housed calves [130 (45–295) s/24 h; median and interquartile range]. Only pair-housed calves could perform social play behavior (play fighting), and the duration of this was greater on d 15 and 29 than on d 43 [8.3, 10.7 and 3.5 (±1.3) corresponding to 69, 115 and 12 s/24 h for d 15, 29, and 43]. Among calves on enhanced milk, pair-housed animals had a greater concentrate intake than individually housed calves (840 vs. 530 ± 110 g/d); for calves on standard milk, we detected no effect of housing [990 and 1,090 (±110) g/d]. Among calves on enhanced milk, pair-housed calves had greater body weight gain than individually housed calves [990 vs. 850 (±40) g/d]. For calves on standard milk, we observed no effect of pair versus individual housing [810 and 840 (±40) g/d]. In conclusion, greater durations of play behavior in enhanced-fed calves suggest an animal welfare benefit of this feeding method. Enhanced-fed calves consumed less concentrate, but pair housing stimulated concentrate intake in these calves, suggesting that pair housing and enhanced feeding should be used together.