Abstract #W8

# W8
Effects of providing social and nutritional enrichment to dairy calves on learning behavior.
K. L. Kutina*1, J. M. Huzzey1, 1California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Dairy calves are raised in conditions that limit natural behavior; this may have consequences on later behavior and performance. Research shows that social housing improves learning in calves; however, little research has explored the interactions between different types of enrichment on cognition. Calves likely have an innate desire to suckle that extends beyond what could be provided from milk feeding alone; providing water from a nipple may be another important enrichment. The objective of this study was to measure the effects of both a water and social enrichment on calf learning behavior. The enrichments included 1) water provided from a nipple vs. a bucket, and 2) visual and tactile access to a partner vs. being isolated in a single hutch. A total of 24 Holstein and Jersey dairy calves were evenly distributed into 4 treatments at birth [Individual/Bucket (IB), Paired/Bucket (PB), Individual/Nipple (IN), Paired/Nipple (PN)]. At wk 8 calves began a visual discrimination task where they had to distinguish between an “X” and “O” cue to receive a milk reward. Testing occurred daily for 14 d and each session consisted of 12 trials. Learning was achieved when calves reached an 80% learning criterion (10/12 correct choices) for 3 consecutive d. Time to reach the learning criterion was analyzed using the Wilcoxin Signed Rank test and learning curves were compared using a mixed model in SAS. Calves in the IN treatment reached the learning criterion faster than IB or PB calves (11.5 ± 1.4 d vs. 16.7 ± 0.8 d and 17 ± 0 d, respectively; P < 0.05), while PN calves reached the learning criterion faster than PB calves (14.8 ± 1.3 d vs. 17 ± 0 d respectively, P < 0.05). Across the 14-d testing period calves in the IN treatment tended to perform better than calves in the other 3 treatments (P = 0.07). When reared individually there was no advantage to learning when calves had a nipple vs. a bucket (P = 0.3); however, among the paired calves, those that had the nipple made more correct choices over time than the PB calves (P = 0.05). These results indicate that social and nutritional enrichments are important for calf cognitive performance.

Key Words: dairy calf, enrichment, cognition