The number of farm mates influences social and maintenance behaviours of Japanese Black cows in a communal pasture

Ken ichi Takeda, Shusuke Sato, Kazuo Sugawara

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    Abstract

    The objective of the present study was to investigate optimal group size in cattle in communal pastures where cattle from various farms are turned out: (1) to ascertain if cows derived from each farm form an affiliative group and (2) to investigate the effect of the number of farm mates on social and maintenance behaviours when farm mates form an affiliative group. Farm mates were defined as cows from the same farm. A total of 27 cows having zero, one, two to four, or sixteen farm mates were selected as focal animals in two communal pastures. Each focal animal was followed by an individual observer for 8 h from sunrise. The nearest neighbour and the distance to the nearest neighbour were recorded at 10-min intervals, and maintenance behaviours at 1-min intervals; social behaviours and participants were recorded continuously. Most focal animals frequently choose cows from the same farm as their nearest neighbours allogroomed with these farm mates significantly more (P < 0.001). Two focal animals did not form affiliative groups with farm mates. The mean distance to the nearest neighbours, whether farm mates or non-farm mates from focal animals having one and two to four farm mates was shorter than cows turned out with no farm mate (1.4 vs. 1.9 times as long as a cow's body length, P < 0.05). Cows having two to four farm mates performed (7.8 s/h/cow, P= 0.06) and received allogrooming more (9.8 s/h/cow) and escaped less during agonistic encounters (0.1 frequencies/h/cow, P < 0.01) than ones having other numbers of farm mates. The mean duration of grazing behaviour per bout tended to increase with the number of farm mates (5.2 to 10.3 min, P < 0.05). The mean duration of recumbency behaviour of cows having two to four farm mates (44.0 min/bout) was longer than the ones having other numbers of farm mates. Social and maintenance behaviours of cows having 16 farm mates were like those having zero or one farm mates, which suggested that the social bond among them was weak. It is concluded that a group of cows having two to four farm mates, that is, a group size of three to five cows, may be optimal for a stable life in a communal pasture. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)181-192
    Number of pages12
    JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
    Volume67
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2000 Apr 3

    Keywords

    • Allogrooming
    • Cattle
    • Grazing behaviour
    • Optimal group size
    • Social bond

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Animals
    • Animal Science and Zoology

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