Alvarez Ramírez, L., Mejía Huerta, N. G., Sánchez Cervantes, A. 2021. Artificial shade effects on behavior and body weight of pregnant grazing red deer (Cervus elaphus). Journal of Veterinary Behavior 44, 32-39.
The study aimed to determine whether artificial shade influences grazing behavior and body weight of pregnant female red deer. Two groups of pregnant does were grazed in enclosures with shade (WS, n = 23), or non-shaded enclosures (NS, n = 23) of similar size and botanical composition. The animals’ location and behavior, as well as ambient and black globe temperatures were recorded. Females were weighed at the beginning and the end of the experiment. In the WS group, the percentage of animals using the shade during the day was significantly related to ambient and black globe temperatures. There were no differences between groups in grazing activity (P > 0.05). More animals were seen drinking, and more thermoregulatory behaviors (wallowing in mud; placing forelegs in troughs) were recorded in the NS group during the day (11.1 ± 1 vs. 6.7 ± 1 and 10 ± 1.4 vs. 3.3 ± 1.4 respectively, P < 0.05). Daily weight gain was higher in the WS group (215 ± 24.1 vs. 127.1 ± 23.6, g ± SE, P < 0.05). Artificial shade during the last 2.5 months of gestation did not affect grazing activity, but reduced the expression of thermoregulatory behaviors and improved average weight gain. It is suggested that shade is important for animal welfare in grazing red deer.