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Animals 2015, 5(4), 1169-1179; doi:10.3390/ani5040404

Social Licking in Pregnant Dairy Heifers

1
Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
2
LETA—Lab of Applied Ethology and Animal Welfare, Department of Zootechny and Rural Development, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Rod. Admar Gonzaga, 1346, Itacorubi, Florianópolis SC 88034-001, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive Phillips
Received: 21 August 2015 / Revised: 20 October 2015 / Accepted: 13 November 2015 / Published: 24 November 2015
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Abstract

Housing affects social behaviors, such as competition, but little work has addressed affiliative behaviors. This study compared social licking (SL) in pregnant heifers housed indoors (in a free-stall barn) versus outdoors (on pasture), and relationships with competition, feeding and physical proximity to others. Six heifer groups were observed during two six-hour-periods in both treatments. The total number of social events (SL and agonistic interactions) was four times higher when heifers were housed indoors compared to pasture (546 ± 43 vs. 128 ± 7 events/group; P < 0.05). SL as a ratio of the total number of social events was similar in the two treatments (12% vs . 8% of interactions, free-stall and pasture, respectively; P > 0.05). Housing did not affect how the SL bout was initiated and terminated, the duration, the body part licked and behavior preceding licking ( P > 0.05). Animals in close proximity showed higher rates of SL ( P < 0.0001) but not agonistic interactions ( P > 0.05). A previous agonistic event did not predict occurrence or the role of heifers in the following licking event. The higher stocking density indoors likely resulted in increased social interactions. View Full-Text
Keywords: allogrooming; affiliative behavior; cattle welfare; grazing; competition. allogrooming; affiliative behavior; cattle welfare; grazing; competition.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Tresoldi, G.; Weary, D.M.; Pinheiro Machado Filho, L.C.; von Keyserlingk, M.A.G. Social Licking in Pregnant Dairy Heifers. Animals 2015, 5, 1169-1179.

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