Social ‘pain’ of separation versus physical pain from dehorning for dairy calves

Cow licking calf in the first hour after birth. Cow and calf form a strong social bond in the hours and days after birth.

Cow licking calf in the first hour after birth. Cow and calf form a strong social bond in the hours and days after birth.

In a paper just published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, researchers from UBC’s Animal Welfare program have assessed the emotional response of dairy calves to separation from the dam. Using a cognitive bias test, the study found that calves show a pessimistic bias (i.e. they treat ambivalent stimuli as if they were negative) in the days after separation from the cow at weaning. This judgement bias was very similar to that shown by calves after hot iron dehorning.

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Dairy Herd Management

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