Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Lene Juul Pedersen

Ability of heifers to discriminate between familiar herdmates and members of an unfamiliar group: preference test and operant conditioning test

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Behaviour and stressbiology
  • Department of Animal Health and Bioscience
Using a preference test and operant conditioning in a Y-maze, this experiment examined the ability of heifers to discriminate between their own familiar herdmates and member(s) of an unfamiliar group. Sixteen Danish Friesian heifers, eight older animals (360.6 ± 24.2 days of age) and eight younger ones (190.1 ± 14.1 days of age) were used. Each age group was further divided into two experimental groups. Members of each of these groups were housed together in small pens before the experiments began. In experiment 1, each of the 16 animals was allowed to approach either a familiar or an unfamiliar individual in the Y-maze. The test was repeated 12 times, with a different unfamiliar subject for each test. In experiment 2, eight heifers were individually tested in a conditioning experiment to examine whether they could learn to discriminate between a group of their three herdmates and a group of three unfamiliar heifers. Test animals were rewarded when they chose their own group. In experiment 1, heifers did not show a preference between familiar and unfamiliar individuals. Interestingly the younger stimulus heifers but not the test animals showed an ability to discriminate between unfamiliar animals by vocalizing. In experiment 2, four of the eight test animals achieved the criterion for successful discrimination between the familiar and unfamiliar group (P < 0.003: binomial law). There was no age group difference in the ability to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar animals. In conclusion, heifers did not show a preference toward familiar or unfamiliar individuals; but after conditioning, some heifers could learn to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar groups.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Science Journal
Volume80
Issue1
Pages (from-to)98-103
ISSN1344-3941
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Research areas

  • Discriminative ability, Heifers, Operant conditioning, Preference test

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 2797383