The effect of daily calf stroking frequency during the postnatal period on the establishment of the human-calf relationship
Stroking calves during the postnatal period could effectively improve human-calf relationships. The objective of this study is to examine how daily calf stroking frequency during the postnatal period affects the establishment of human-calf relationships. Six calves were stroked by a trainer for 6 minutes once daily for 5 days after birth (D1). Six calves were stroked by a trainer for 3 minutes twice daily for 5 days after birth (D2). A further four calves were stared at but not stroked as the
... ot stroked as the control group. The overall stroking or staring duration was the same for all groups, at 6 min/day and 30 min over 5 days. The tests for reactions to the stationary trainer in an unfamiliar environment and avoidance distance measurements for an approaching trainer were conducted at 1 month and 3 months after the treatment. Calves in both stroking groups approached significantly closer to the stationary trainer, vocalized less, and looked at the trainer shorter than the control group at 1 month. However, at 3 months, there was no significant difference between the D1 and the control group, whereas the D2 approached significantly closer to the trainer and vocalized less, and looked at the trainer for a shorter time than the control group. For the avoidance distance, the trainer could approach closer to both stroking groups than the control at 1 month, however, there was no difference among groups at 3 months. Our results suggested that the difference in the calf stroking procedure affected the established human-calf relationships, even though the total stroking duration was the same for all stroked calves. It is likely to be more effective to stroke more frequently than intensively when the aim is to establish better human-calf relationships within limited labor time.