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Expression and Development of Feeding Behaviour in Dairy Calves

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Title: Expression and Development of Feeding Behaviour in Dairy Calves
Author: Miller-Cushon, Emily
Department: Department of Animal and Poultry Science
Program: Animal and Poultry Science
Advisor: DeVries, Trevor
Abstract: The objective of this dissertation was to investigate the emergence and persistence of feeding behaviour patterns in dairy calves. A first study revealed that calves sorted mixed rations for familiar feeds initially after weaning, but that sorting patterns became similar over time. Subsequently, feed presentation was found to affect sorting, with calves previously offered hay and concentrate as a mixture, rather than separately, sorting for concentrate to a greater extent after weaning. The effect of feed form on sorting was then investigated. Calves offered a pre-weaning ration containing concentrate and finely ground hay, in comparison to coarsely chopped hay, sorted in favor of concentrate to a greater extent and maintained increased sorting behaviour after weaning. Thus, opportunity to sort feed early in life influenced the degree, but not the pattern, of feed sorting after weaning. In further studies, the effects of management factors on development of feeding patterns were assessed. Milk feeding level influenced milk meal frequency and diurnal feeding patterns. After weaning, calves previously provided restricted amounts of milk had initially greater rates of intake and larger meals, but differences in feeding patterns did not persist. Effects of feed presentation on feeding patterns were then assessed, revealing that providing a mixed ration increased feeding time and decreased rate of intake but resulted in no longer-term differences once all caves were transitioned to a mixed ration. Finally, the effects of competition for access to milk in pair-housed calves was evaluated. Calves fed competitively had initially fewer milk meals, but increased meal frequency over time. Post-weaning, calves previously fed competitively had more frequent displacements, greater rates of intake, and more frequent meals. Thus, feeding strategy alone may have minimal effect on post-weaning feeding patterns in individual-housed calves, but feeding strategy and social environment hay interact to cause persistent differences in feeding patterns. Overall, this thesis provides insight into the development of feed sorting and feeding patterns in response to early management factors.
Date: 2014-04
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