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Outside enclosure and additional enrichment for dairy goats – a preliminary study

DOI: 10.1186/1751-0147-54-68

Keywords: Goat , Outside enclosure , Environmental enrichment

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Abstract:

Background Dairy goats are commonly housed at a space allowance of 0.7 – 0.8 m2/goat in commercial Norwegian goat herds, which is very low compared to regulations and recommendations in other European countries. One easy and cheap way to increase space allowance is to allow the animals’ access to outdoor area. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of access to an outside enclosure and environmental enrichment for dairy goats kept in slatted floor pens with low space allowance on their activity pattern and social behaviour. Methods A group of 82 dairy goats on a commercial Norwegian dairy farm were kept inside during the winter period from October to April. In April the goats were given access to an outside enclosure for 8 hours per day. After having access to the enclosure for another for two days, enrichment (branches) was provided, and after 19 days the enrichment were removed. The goats were observed for 5 hours per day for the two last days before they got access to the outside enclosure, the two days in the enclosure, the two first and the two last days with enrichment and for the following two days without enrichment by two trained observers. Results When allowed access to the enclosure, the goats spent nearly 50% of the time outside, and later the time spent outside was reduced to less than 40% (P < 0.0001), but there was no clear effect of enrichment. All the goats appeared to have a regular use of the enclosure. Time spent resting decreased 59.2% to only 25.2% when the goats first got access to the enclosure, but then started to increase again (P < 0.0001). Initially time spent exploring and chewing the branches was 20%, but this was reduced to around 12% in the last part of the ENRICH period (P < 0.0001). Number of aggressive interactions tended to increase when the goats were allowed access to the outdoor enclosure whereas play behaviour was only observed in the outside enclosure (P < 0.05). Conclusions In conclusion, the goats preferred to use the outside enclosure when being active, and branches were perceived as an attractive enrichment.

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