Abstract

Effect of an Adaptation Strategy to a Single-Space Concentrate Feeder with Lateral Protections on Performance, Eating, and Animal Behavior after Arrival of Fattening Holstein Calves

The objective of the current study was to evaluate the effect of an adaptation strategy to a single-space concentrate feeder with lateral protections forming a chute (SF) on performance, eating pattern, and animal behavior in calves for first 6 weeks after arrival at the fattening farm. Two hundred sixteen Holstein calves (120 ± 3.8 kg initial body weight and 102 ± 2.7 days of age), from two separate batches, were randomly allocated in one of 6 pens equipped with a computerized concentrate SF, a separate straw feeder, and a water bowl. Pens were assigned to either a conventional adaptation strategy (CA), in which the chute was widened for first 4 days; or an alternative adaptation strategy (AA), in which no chute was placed for first 4 days and an additional feeder was also used during the arrival period (the first 14 days after arrival). All animals had ad libitum access to concentrate and straw. Daily concentrate consumption and eating pattern, weekly straw consumption, and fortnightly body weight (BW) were recorded throughout the study. Animal behavior was recorded by scan sampling on day 1, 3, 5, 7, and weekly throughout the study. Eating (concentrate and straw) and drinking behaviors were filmed for 4 hours on day 1, 5, and 15 of the study. During the first week of the arrival period, calves on AA had a greater (p<0.01) concentrate intake than calves on CA, which showed a greater (p<0.01) variable daily intake as well. In addition, the final BW after 42 days of study was greater (p<0.05) in AA than in CA calves. A greater (p ≤ 0.01) percentage of animals per pen eating concentrate and drinking, a shorter (p<0.01) occupancy time, a greater (p<0.01) number of animals and visits, a reduction (p<0.05) of waiting time and an increase (p<0.01) of the number of displacements were recorded with AA than CA during the first week of the arrival period. In conclusion, the adaptation strategy (chute not placed and additional feeder) was successful at facilitating feed access and encouraging concentrate consumption during the first week of the arrival period, improving concentrate intake at short-term (first week) and BW at mid-term (sixth week) after arrival at fattening farm, respectively.


Author(s): Verdú M, Bach A and Devant M

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