Behavioural Responses of Goat Kids to Disbudding — ASN Events

Behavioural Responses of Goat Kids to Disbudding (#659)

Melissa N. Hempstead 1 , Joseph R. Waas 1 , Mairi Stewart 2 , Mhairi A. Sutherland 3
  1. The University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
  2. InterAg, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
  3. AgResearch Ltd., Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

The most common method for removing horn buds from dairy goat kids is cautery disbudding, typically performed without pain relief. Disbudding is a practice that has been shown to be painful in calves. Painful husbandry procedures have negative animal welfare and public perception implications, therefore evaluation of mitigation strategies to reduce pain associated with disbudding in goats are necessary. However, behavioural indicators of pain in goat kids must be validated first. The key aim of this research was to identify kid activities that are indicative of pain associated with disbudding. Saanen goat kids were randomly assigned to treatment groups: (1) disbudded with a cautery iron (CAUT, n=5) and (2) sham handled (SHAM, n=5). Animals were video recorded 12 h pre- and post-treatment in the home pen and one trained observer systematically counted all occurrences of 11 different behaviours. The change in activity frequency (post- minus pre-treatment) was compared between treatment groups. CAUT and SHAM kids performed the same behaviours before and after treatment. Both treatments displayed higher (P≤0.05) frequencies of the observed behaviours post-treatment; however CAUT treated kids showed an even greater increase (with one exception, body shaking, which decreased). Behaviours (mean±SEM) that had the greatest change in response to disbudding were: body shaking (6.1±0.4 vs. 8.8±0.5, CAUT and SHAM, respectively; P<0.025), head shaking (31.2±3.1 vs. 17.5±1.8, CAUT and SHAM, respectively; P<0.030), head rubbing (42±0.8 vs. 0.8±0.3, CAUT and SHAM, respectively; P<0.020) and head scratching (15.8±5.9 vs. 2.2±1.1, CAUT and SHAM, respectively; P<0.045). Our results show that changes in the frequency of certain behaviours are good indicators of pain associated with disbudding in goat kids. The pain indicators identified could be used by the industry for assessing disbudding pain and in future research investigating pain mitigation strategies during disbudding, to ultimately improve the welfare of dairy goats.