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Recording cattle maternal behaviour using proximity loggers and tri-axial accelerometers
journal contributionposted on 04.05.2022, 02:58 by Harpreet Kour, Kym P Patison, Nicholas CorbetNicholas Corbet, David SwainDavid Swain
The close proximities between cow–calf pairs and suckling behaviour of calves are very important for calf survival; as the cow provides nutrients (milk) and protection to the calf from predators and teaches various important life survival skills. In extensive production systems, with the help of technology précised and accurate data of animal behaviour can be obtained. This study used tri-axial accelerometers and proximity loggers to record the time spent in suckling and in close proximity by cow–calf pairs, respectively. The relationship between these two behaviours and similarities in circadian variations were explored. The use of proximity loggers as a proxy for accelerometers to record suckling behaviour was investigated. The effect of sex, age, birth weight of calves; weight of both cows and calves at the time of data collection and parity of cows on the time spent by cow–calf pairs in close proximity was determined. During the 2015–16 breeding season, 28 B. taurus (Belmont Red) cow–calf pairs were studied for 12 days. Proximity logging collars were fitted to all cows and calves, while calves were also fitted with halters containing tri-axial accelerometers on the right-side strap. The results showed that calves spent on average 102.5 ± 13.26 min per day in close proximity to their dams, with the average duration of each close proximity was 0.7 ± 0.07 min, and the average number of close proximities in 24 h was 128.5 ± 16.98. Calves spent a total of 73.3 ± 7.36 min per day suckling, with an average duration of each suckling bout of 9.4 ± 0.39 min, and an average number of 7.7 ± 0.67 suckling bouts in 24 h. There was no relation found between any parameters of time spent in close proximity with time spent in suckling. All the suckling events recorded by accelerometers were not recorded as close proximity by proximity loggers due to interrupted signals, confirming that proximity loggers were not a suitable proxy to record the suckling bouts. The frequency, average duration and total duration of contacts between cow–calf pairs were greater during non-suckling events compared with suckling events. Three similar peaks in circadian pattern of frequency of contact and suckling were found. The calves’ age, birth weight, weight of both calves and cows at the time of data collection and parities of cows had no effect on their close proximity. The female calves contacted with their dams more frequently than male calves.