the development of the maternal-offspring bond in sheep

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    School of Agriculture, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh (Gt. Britain)


    The site selected for elimination by piglets of various ages was determined in three situations. Piglets younger than three days of age do not appear to prefer or avoid any particular site within the pen. Piglets older than three days avoid the area where they sleep. This was true for all the situations examined.

    Post-four day elimination was affected by the type of pen in which the piglets were housed. In standard, 5 square metre, farrowing pens, with the sow confined in a farrow- ing crate, the piglets eliminate most frequently in the two corners and along the side furthest from the sleeping area. If the size of the pen is doubled, then the eliminations appear to occur at a set distance from the sleeping area. If the sleeping area is more or less central, then the eliminations occur around the edges of the pen. With the sleeping area to one side, the eliminations tend to be more central and certainly not against the edges.

    In an open plan pen, where the sow is unrestrained, the piglets avoid their own sleeping area as well as that of the sow, which results in the piglets and sow eliminating in the same place. If only part of the pen is bedded, then the piglets still avoid the sleeping areas but eliminate on the bedding irrespective of whether this is next to the edge or not. The sow, on the other hand, eliminates where there is no bedding.

    The proximity of other piglets does not appear to be an important variable affecting the choice of elimination site.

    In conclusion, piglets prefer not to eliminate where they sleep from the age of about four days and various obvious environmental factors, such as the sows dunging site, edges of the pen and separation from other piglets, appear not to be of fundamental importance to the piglets choice of site.



    ARC Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham, Cambridge (Gt. Britain)


    The formation of the maternal-offspring bond in sheep is the result of a rapid learning process influenced by the behaviour of both ewe and lamb. Providing that the ewe and lamb are strong and healthy and the environmental conditions are favourable, the most important factor is that the ewe and lamb should remain close together for the first hours after birth. The parturient ewe is physiologically and behaviourally ready to accept a lamb, and when it is born she licks it and rumbles to it and stands still, orienting head on to the lamb. In this way the ewe learns the smell, taste, appearance and voice of the lamb and so begins to reject aliens. The lamb releases maternal behaviour from the ewe by vigorous attempts to stand and then to find the udder. It becomes warm and dry and once

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    the teat is found it obtains milk. In this way it learns the smell, appearance and voice of the ewe and this learning is reinforced by being butted away by alien ewes. Cross-fostering studies have shown that bond formation can be extended by keeping the ewe and the lamb to be adopted close together. Tranquillising ewes also helps to extend the critical period. There are still several problems to be solved. What makes a ewe steal an alien lamb before and after her own lamb has been born? Why does a ewe sometimes reject one of her own lambs and keep the other? At what stage does a lamb identify itself with a breed of sheep rather than with its mother?



    Durham University, Durham (Gt.Britain)


    This report concentrates on the foals behaviour, from observation of 16 herd-living mares and foals, for 6 h after birth.

    Righting behaviour leading to standing indicates a cephalocaudal direction of develop- ment: first, raising of the head; then attaining a sternal position; lifting the foreparts off the ground; and finally pushing the hindquarters up to stand on all four feet.

    Aspects of sucking behaviour may occur before the foal stands: stretching the head and neck forward; and sucking activity with the mouth - in the air or against a surface. These and specific orienting behaviours must be coordinated before sucking is achieved.

    Movement is uncoordinated at first, but walking becomes established, and subsequent- ly cantering and trotting. (Intermediate gaits may also occur.) Following is usually established by the mare moving away, standing, and returning, until the foal moves to her; it will later move at her side when she starts to move, and behind her if unabie to remain alongside.

    Lying attempts follow the adult pattern, but are not always successful; the foal may fall, or rest standing, at first.

    Defecation and urination occur without assistance from the mare. The foal will vocalise (neigh), often when the mare is not in close contact, or as a

    response to vocalisation. No distinction is made by the foal between its mother and others for the first day.

    (For the next few days the foal will turn away to its mother when approached by an- other.) Throughout this period, play is either solitary and consists of cantering, bucking or rearing around the mare or unreciprocated and consists of chewing at parts of her body. Exploration involves approaching, looking at and perhaps nosing at objects. Avoid- ance is elicited by sudden movement, but not by low-intensity threat.


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