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Open AccessArticle

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
Animals 2015, 5(4), 1169-1179; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani5040404
Received: 21 August 2015 / Revised: 20 October 2015 / Accepted: 13 November 2015 / Published: 24 November 2015
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.
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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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