The effect of housing on the diurnal behavioural profile of beef heifers

  • Mary Clare Hickey
  • Padraig French
  • Aidan Moloney


The objectives were to determine 1. the behaviour of heifers at pasture or housed on slats, and 2. the effect of housing on behavioural adaptation when moved to pasture. Forty-five continental crossbred heifers were assigned to either housing on slats at 3 m2 head-1for 5 months (H), grazing for 5 months (G) or housing for 4 months, prior to grazing (HG). Lying and eating behaviour was recorded periodically for H, G and for HG post-turnout. Per day, G animals spent longer (p<0.01) eating and had a greater (p<0.001) number of daily lying bouts than H animals. While there were minor differences between G and HG animals in the 24 h period after turnout, there was no difference between G and HG animals in time spent eating, lying or in the number of lying bouts on day 1, 2, 3 or 10 post turnout. While abnormal lying behaviour was observed in 3 animals before turnout, there was no abnormal lying behaviour in HG animals by 48 h post turnout. The alteration in behaviour due to housing was not permanent.

Keywords: Grazing, eating, lying, turnout


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Research notes
Feb 12, 2014
How to Cite
Hickey, M. C., French, P., & Moloney, A. (2014). The effect of housing on the diurnal behavioural profile of beef heifers. Agricultural and Food Science, 23(1), 2-8.