da Silva, P. M. R. S., Ferreira, I. C., da Fonseca Neto, A. M. et al. 2021. Does environmental enrichment consisting of brushing prepartum zebu heifers improve first-lactation behavior? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 234, 105206.
To date, Qualitative Behavior Assessment (QBA) has not been used to measure the welfare of pre-partum Zebu heifers treated with practices of positive handling. The study objective was to investigate the effect of brushing as positive handling on animal behavior in the prepartum period, aside from establishing a qualitative behavior index to assess the animals’ well-being pre- and postpartum periods. Thirty-five Zebu, 21 Gyr and 14 Gyr/Holstein heifers were evaluated. Filming was performed during the prepartum period, and on postpartum day (PPD) 1, 5 and 15. The filmed material was evaluated based on the method of Qualitative Behavior Assessment (QBA). A total of 1942 evaluation sheets with 10 fixed descriptive terms were analyzed. The means of Qualitative Behavior Index (QBI) were compared by the Tukey-Kramer test at 5% probability. On PPD1, training improved the QBI of Gyr and Gyr/Holstein heifers by 93 % and 43 %, respectively. The cumulative sum of the first two components explained 73.32 % of the variability in the datasets. High correlations were observed between the undesirable adjective pairs “nervous - aggressive” and “scared - irritable” (0.88); “confused-fearful” and “scared - irritable” (0.87) and between the desirable adjectives “calm - even-tempered” and” sociable - friendly” (0.78). The use of QBA to measure the welfare of pre- and postpartum Zebu heifers is applicable and efficient. The implementation of a training of prepartum Zebu heifers with environmental enrichment, tactile stimulation by brushing and human presence improved the adaptation of Zebu heifers to the postpartum milking system. We suggest brushing of Gyr heifers in the pre- as well as postpartum phases to improve the well-being of the animals.