Pair housing makes calves more optimistic

Katarina Buckova, Marek Špinka, Sara Hintze*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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Individual housing of dairy calves is common farm practice, but has negative effects on calf welfare. A compromise between practice and welfare may be housing calves in pairs. We compared learning performances and affective states as assessed in a judgement bias task of individually housed and pair-housed calves. Twenty-two calves from each housing treatment were trained on a spatial Go/No-go task with active trial initiation to discriminate between the location of a teat-bucket signalling either reward (positive location) or non-reward (negative location). We compared the number of trials to learn the operant task (OT) for the trial initiation and to finish the subsequent discrimination task (DT). Ten pair-housed and ten individually housed calves were then tested for their responses to ambiguous stimuli positioned in-between the positive and negative locations. Housing did not affect learning speed (OT: F1,35 = 0.39, P = 0.54; DT: F1,19 = 0.15, P = 0.70), but pair-housed calves responded more positively to ambiguous cues than individually housed calves (χ2 1 = 6.79, P = 0.009), indicating more positive affective states. This is the first study to demonstrate that pair housing improves the affective aspect of calf welfare when compared to individual housing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20246
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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