AUSTRIA - Competition in the goat pen is especially high during feeding time, leading to increased stress, which new research from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Welfare at Vetmeduni Vienna aims to alleviate.
"To get to their food, the animals 'involuntarily' come into closer proximity than they would like. This can lead to injuries, stress and reduced milk yield," said project leader Susanne Waiblinger.
It is known from other animal species that non-transparent head partitions between the animals can make animals feel further apart.
"Animals don't feel disturbed when they can't see each other," said Ms Waiblinger.
The research team tested whether this worked for goats by attaching additional head partitions to the feeding racks and comparing this to time without the head partitions.
High-ranking goats were calmer during feeding because the head partitions prevented them from seeing the neighbouring feeding places and they did not feel compelled to chase away competitors.
As a result, other goats are less frequently driven away from their feeding places. Feeding times were more relaxed in terms of less frequent disturbances during feeding. More feeding places were used at one time and the goats more often stood directly next to each other without leaving a feeding place unoccupied.
The researchers even observed an increased nutritional status (musculature and fat) measured at the lumbar spine among the high-ranking animals. The fewer disturbances by neighbouring animals therefore appeared to increase food intake among high-ranking animals.
"Head partitions can therefore be recommended as supportive measures in the feeding area," concluded Ms Waiblinger.
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