Claire Rafferty’s bursary placement

Claire Rafferty from Dumfries Academy took a four week bursary placement at the Scottish Agricultural College. Her bursary placement was titled 'An investigation of dairy calf behaviour '.

The aims of the project
The aim of my project was to examine the use that calves made of a stock grooming brush.

How the project was carried out
I had two pens set up each with 8 calves. There was an even distribution of genetic group and age in the two pens. I first observed the calves behaviour normally for the first week as a control. I observed how many calves were doing what behaviour - either standing, lying, walking, eating, drinking, sleeping, playing or grooming. This was observed and noted every 10 minutes for a period of three hours a day. In the second week the grooming brush was added to Pen 1 and their behaviour and Pen 2's behaviour was again observed. The grooming brush was then transferred into Pen 2 for the third week and the calves behaviour was again recorded for both Pens. The calves were also weighed on the Monday of each week to record their growth.

What I found out
The grooming results showed that grooming using the brush was an added activity. Therefore there must be a decrease in another activity of another behaviour. However this does not seem apparent in the time of day when these observations were taken, 9.00am till 12.00 noon. The calves showed a very high level of interest when a new object is introduced into their pen. However this interest does not last but soon declines to a lower more stable level of grooming. The grooming brush had only previously been offered to adult animals but it was shown here that calves also enjoyed the same activity.

The most valuable thing about the bursary experience
I thought it was a very valuable experience and gave me a lot more knowledge into the way research is carried out. I also got a lot more experience working with larger animals as i also got to work in the dairy parlour. This was very important experience to me and I enjoyed finding out more about this area of work.