Zobel, G., Freeman, H., Watson, T. et al. 2020. Effect of different milk-removal strategies at weaning on feed intake and behavior of goat kids. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 35, 62-68.
Weaning from milk is stressful. We aimed to investigate the effect of three weaning strategies on feed intake and behavior of dairy goat kids. Forty-five, 3-month-old Saanen cross goats were allocated to one of three treatments: abrupt removal of milk (AB), gradual reduction of milk replacer in the same water volume (DILU), and gradual volume reduction (VOL). The goats on DILU and VOL were stepped down every 2 days over a 6-day period, whereas the goats on AB continued to receive baseline milk allowance. All treatments were weaned on day (d) 6. During step-down (d0-d2), the goats on DILU had lower (P < 0.05) average daily gains than the goats on AB and VOL. Treatment had no effect on milk refusals. The goats on DILU increased pellet intake earlier (d4-d5) than those on other treatments, eating twice as much as those on AB and VOL (P < 0.05); immediately after milk being no longer offered (d6-d7), the goats on VOL consumed less pellets than the goats on AB and DILU (P < 0.05). All goats consumed the same amount of pellet by d8-d9. Treatment did not affect vocalizations; after weaning (d6-d9), goats in all treatments continued to vocalize after pellet delivery (P = 0.003). The treatment had no effect on rumination or lying behavior; rumination increased goats in after weaning. In conclusion, dilution of milk replacer negatively affected weight gain initially; however, these goats consumed more pellets earlier. Gradual reduction of milk volume did not increase pellet intake, but weight gain was not negatively affected. Four days after weaning, no differences existed between the treatments, suggesting that any of the weaning strategies were suitable for 12-week-old goats.