Behavioural interactions of dairy cows with their newborn calves and the effects of parity


Continuous observations of 82 individually penned Friesian cows and their calves were made during the first 6 h post partum. The behaviour observed was similar to that described for wild ungulates of the 'hider' type. Cows showed a marked decrease in calf-directed activities with time after parturition. This was more pronounced in older animals, which recommenced ingestive behaviour sooner. The incidence of licking and other maternal behaviour depends upon the characteristics of the calf and upon the state of the mother. Close proximity between cow and calf was maintained, in small calving pens, by the mother at the first three calvings but by the calf after these. The eating of the afterbirth is considered to be anti-predator behaviour. Calves of primiparous dams spent more time suckling and suckled from more quarters than did calves of older cows. Primiparous dams showed a higher incidence of abnormal maternal behaviour. © 1982.