Li, C., Wang, J., Jin, S. et al. 2020. Artificial grooming during early life could boost the activity and human affinity of Holstein female calves. Animals 10(2), 302.
Early cow–calf separation management induced various welfare problems for dairy calves. We mimicked the maternal licking by manually brushing right after the Holstein female calves were born and during their first week of life, termed artificial grooming (AG). The behavior of these treated calves (AG, n = 17) was compared with the calves without artificial grooming (Con, n = 16) during daily behavioral observation around evening milk feeding and in the open field test (OFT) and novel human test (NHT). The number of calves ingesting starter on day six was recorded. The AG calves were observed to be more active and perform more oral behavior compared with the Con calves around evening milk feeding. In the OFT and NHT, the AG calves were again more active than the Con calves. Moreover, the AG calves tended to be less cautious and had more human interactions than the Con calves in the NHT. There tended to be a higher percentage of AG calves ingesting starter on day 6. In conclusion, artificial grooming during early life could boost the activity and the human affinity of female calves and it might advance their starter diet ingestion.