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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Indicators of Acute Pain and Fly Avoidance Behaviors in Holstein Calves Following Tail-Docking

Authors
item Eicher, Susan
item Dailey, Jeffery

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 8, 2002
Publication Date: November 1, 2002
Citation: EICHER, S.D., DAILEY, J.W. INDICATORS OF ACUTE PAIN AND FLY AVOIDANCE BEHAVIORS IN HOLSTEIN CALVES FOLLOWING TAIL-DOCKING. JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE. 2002. V. 85. P. 2850-2858.

Interpretive Summary: Previous work showed that the banding process of docking minimally affects mature cows' behavior and physiology, but docked cows had more flies on rear legs and exhibited more fly avoidance behaviors. We investigated changes in behavior, fly counts, and physiology of young calves following docking by banding. Twenty calves (3-5 wk of age) were assigned to a docked or control group, at each of two locations (Indiana and Wisconsin). After applying a band to dock the tail, calves were tested every 15 min for sensitivity to heat below the band at the Indiana location. At both locations, calf behavior was recorded for 2 h post- banding. After 3 more wk, tails were removed and then one week later, fly counts and fly avoidance behaviors were observed. Tails of docked calves were sensitive to heat below the banding site, until 60-120 min post- banding (mean 87 min). Banded calves were more active than control calves during the 2 h following banding. Control calves spent more time lying and docked calves spent more time walking. More importantly, movements of the head to touch the tail were increased for banded calves (8 fold more movements). Fly avoidance behaviors directed toward the rear of all calves were evident at noon and in the afternoon. Docked calves had more ear twitches in the morning, licking and ear twitches at noon and more frequent licking in the afternoon, but tail swings were least in docked calves at noon. Acute phase proteins were not different. These data show if tail-docking is necessary just prior to calving, the most appropriate age to band cattle is in heifers because of the need for the tail for fly avoidance. This study will be useful for producers considering the benefits and disadvantages that accompany the practice of tail-docking.

Technical Abstract: To investigated changes in behavior and physiology of young calves following docking by banding,twenty calves (3-5 wk of age) were assigned to a docked or control group, at each of two locations (Indiana and Wisconsin). After applying a band to dock the tail, calves were tested every 15 min for sensitivity to heat below the band at the Indiana location. At both locations, calf behavior was recorded for 2 h post- banding and analyzed continuously for that 2 h period. After 3 wk, tails were removed and then one week later, fly counts and fly avoidance behaviors were observed. Tails of docked calves were sensitive to heat below the banding site, until 60-120 min post-banding (mean 87 min) (P<.05). Banded calves were more active than control calves during the 2 h following banding, percentage of time spent lying was greater for control calves and the percentage of time spent walking was greater for docked than control calves (P<.05). More importantly, movements of the head to touch the tail were increased for banded calves (8 fold more movements, P<.05). At 7 wk-of-age fly avoidance behaviors directed toward the rear of the calf were evident at noon and in the afternoon. Ear twitches were greater for the docked calves in the morning, licking and ear twitches were greater in docked calves at noon and licking was more frequent in the afternoon (P<.05). However, tail swings were least in docked calves at noon (P<.05). Two acute phase proteins, haptoglobin and alpha-one acid-glycoprotein, were not different. In this study, calves that were banded at 3-wk-of-age showed behaviors indicative of discomfort and had more flies and some increased fly avoidance behaviors when docked.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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