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Keywords:

  • animal handling;
  • animal welfare;
  • calves

Background

Young (‘bobby’) calves transported to the abattoir in their first week of life have not yet developed natural herding behaviour. The calves are still in a ‘hider’ phase and naturally spend most of their time lying and sleeping. Anecdotally, calves are easier to handle as they get older, although it is unclear if they are inherently more responsive to a handler.

Methods

This study examined the ease of moving 3-, 5- and 9–11-day-old calves individually through an obstacle course involving a 12° incline, a 11° decline and two 90° turns.

Results

There was a significant effect of age on both the total time taken to move through the course (99 vs 86 vs 72 s for 3-, 5- and 9–11-day-old calves, respectively; P < 0.05) and the number of interventions by the handler (8.4 vs 7.3 vs 4.8 interventions per calf for 3-, 5- and 9–11-day-old calves, respectively; P < 0.05).

Conclusion

Ease of herding bobby calves improved with age, although individually handled calves were relatively easy to move regardless of age.