Behavioral Research Blog

Why not let calves choose? The dietary preferences of calves

Posted by Guest blogger on Jun 29, 2015

Today, we are proud to have another guest blogger! Laura Webb has done some interesting research at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) on the dietary preferences of calves and honored us with a blog post! Also, there is a free case study available at the end of this post!

Calves, whether raised for milk or meat production, are typically fed diets that differ from diets of feral cattle herds. For example, veal calves receive large quantities of milk replacer and solid feed with little structure to chew on, while dairy calves are weaned off milk early on and receive mostly solid feed. Diets typically fed to calves can cause a number of welfare problems, including poor stomach health as well as stress due to the inability to perform highly-motivated natural behaviours such as rumination or sucking on a teat. Furthermore, there is much research indicating that animals, and in particular ruminants, are able to select a balanced diet and maximise their comfort. So why not let calves choose?

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, Cows, Pocket Observer, feeding behavior,, stereotypies

Why wolves cry out for their friends

Posted by G. Smit on Apr 3, 2014

Why do wolves howl? From research, movies, and even television series, we learn that wolves cry out to each other to facilitate the reassembling of a pack when members have strayed. These calls are a functional way of long-distance communication, not only for wolves but also other species such as birds and mammals. So the functional importance of this behavior seems evident. But what actually makes a wolf cry? Is it because it misses its friends? Or is it simply something its body tells it to do?

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Topics: The Observer XT, social behavior research, mobile observation, Pocket Observer, social hierarchy, wolves, vocalizations

Insect damage on leaves changes the reproductive strategy of plants

Posted by Olga Krips on Mar 6, 2014

Optimizing pollination

We all know that the majority of plant species depends on pollinators, like bees and syrphid flies, for reproduction. What most of us do not know is that this process is far more complex than it looks at first sight. Think about it: pollinators do not visit flowers to transfer pollen, but to collect nectar. If the amount of nectar in the flowers is too large, the pollinators will not visit other flowers to collect more, so no pollen is transferred to other plants. Conversely, if the amount of nectar is too small, it will not pay for the pollinators to visit those flowers. So plants have to fine-tune the nectar production in their flowers to optimize pollination. And did you know that some plant species even add toxins to their nectar, which stimulates pollinators to move to other plants, bringing the pollen with them [1]?

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Topics: The Observer XT, insect behavior, mobile observation, Pocket Observer, insect

Why social pigs do better

Posted by G. Smit on Jan 28, 2014

And how to study their behavior in great detail

If you want to get on in life, is it better to make friends, or should you trample down the competition? Maybe we can learn something from animals… Take hens for example, we probably all know what a ‘pecking order’ is. As a hen, if you don’t peck back, you will definitely loose out. On the other hand, if you are a pig, being social will get you somewhere. In fact, studies show that social pigs are healthier and grow better, and having social pen mates also has these positive effects.

Reimert et al. wanted to look at the behavior of social pigs more closely. In their recent study (published Applied Animal Behaviour Science), they used both video tracking and scoring of behavior to assess behavior in a combined novel location and novel object test.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, The Observer XT, animal behavior research, social behavior research, video observation, coding schemes, animal welfare, tracking, anxiety research, pigs, ethogram, Pocket Observer

Reproduce before it is too late – caterpillars speed up seed production in plants

Posted by Olga Krips on Aug 12, 2013

Plants are sophisticated
Did you know that plants are not as passive as they appear to be at first sight? Although plants cannot run away when they are attacked by plant eating insects, they have several sophisticated ways to defend themselves. They can produce nasty substances upon attack. Or they can produce smells that attract natural enemies of their attackers [1]. Now it also shown that the threat of being eaten can speed up seed production in plants and affect the behavior of pollinators.

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Topics: insect behavior, mobile observation, Pocket Observer

Unraveling primate behavior, why do monkeys rub their fur?

Posted by Olga Krips on Jul 30, 2012

Did you know that tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) rub their fur vigorously with substances such as leaves, fruit, or insects? Such substances are often insecticidal, antiseptic, or anti-inflammatory. Therefore, fur rubbing may improve fur condition along with having a medical function.

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Topics: The Observer XT, animal behavior research, social behavior research, animal welfare, ethogram, primate, monkey, Pocket Observer

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