Cows are creatures of habit, and as science is showing, the formation of their behavioral tendencies begins early in their lives.
According to Emily Miller-Cushon, sorting behavior develops as early as preweaning in calves. In a recent presentation at the Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA and ASAS, Miller-Cushon explained the way solid feed is presented to calves influences sorting behavior.
In a recent study, preweaned calves were offered either a mix of hay and concentrate or a separated hay and concentrate solid feeding option.
In monitoring feeding behavior, Miller-Cushon found the calves fed the mixed solid feed sorted toward the concentrate while those receiving the separated solid feeds showed no real tendency toward sorting.
More interestingly, these feeding behavior trends continued through six weeks post-weaning when the study ended.
Miller-Cushon suggested during her presentation that this study exhibits feeding behavior is not only a learned trait, but she also predicted it would have long-term effects stretching into breeding age and even into the lactating herd.
Similar research she presented showed competition in young calf pens develops competitive feeding behaviors that can be detrimental especially to timid animals. Her team's research is showing that early competition through weaning results in calves that continue to displace each other at an elevated rate six weeks post-weaning.
It's been said many times that calf raising is the foundation of a strong herd, but, obviously, that extends beyond animal health and rate of gain.
July 25, 2016