Understanding oral stereotypies in calves: alternative strategies, hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (re)activity and gene by environment interactions

  • L. E Webb, C. G van Reenen, B Engel, H Berends, W. J. J Gerrits, E. A. M Bokkers
  • animal, November 2016, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s1751731116002226

Understanding oral stereotypies in calves

What is it about?

This research is about understanding abnormal repetitive behaviours performed by calves raised intensively for the production of milk or meat. These abnormal repetitive behaviours, also referred to as stereotypies, are believed to reflect a sub-optimal environment, where captive animals are unable to perform certain highly motivated natural behaviours. Stereotypies observed in calves are mostly oral and are thought to mostly related to inadequate feeding. One common stereotypy in calves is tongue playing: the rolling and unrolling of the tongue inside and outside the mouth. This paper examined whether stereotypies in calves are also linked to 'personality' or stress physiology.

Why is it important?

Stereotypies in captive animals are linked to poor welfare and are often used in on-farm welfare assessments or in research. It is therefore crucial that we understand these behaviours.


Dr Laura Webb
Wageningen University

Stereotypies in captive (domestic) animals and their link to welfare are still poorly understood despite much research on this topic.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Laura Webb