Chopped or long roughage: what do calves prefer? Using cross point analysis of double demand functions

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The present study aimed to quantify calves'(Bos taurus) preference for long versus chopped hay and straw, and hay versus straw, using cross point analysis of double demand functions, in a context where energy intake was not a limiting factor. Nine calves, fed milk replacer and concentrate, were trained to work for roughage rewards from two simultaneously available panels. The cost (number of muzzle presses) required on the panels varied in each session (left panel/right panel): 7/35, 14/28, 21/21, 28/14, 35/7. Demand functions were estimated from the proportion of rewards achieved on one panel relative to the total number of rewards achieved in one session. Cross points (cp) were calculated as the cost at which an equal number of rewards was achieved from both panels. The deviation of the cp from the midpoint (here 21) indicates the strength of the preference. Calves showed a preference for long versus chopped hay (cp ¿=¿14.5; P ¿=¿0.004), and for hay versus straw (cp ¿=¿38.9; P¿=¿0.004), both of which improve rumen function. Long hay may stimulate chewing more than chopped hay, and the preference for hay versus straw could be related to hedonic characteristics. No preference was found for chopped versus long straw (cp ¿=¿20.8; P¿=¿0.910). These results could be used to improve the welfare of calves in production systems; for example, in systems where calves are fed hay along with high energy concentrate, providing long hay instead of chopped could promote roughage intake, rumen development, and rumination.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere88778
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • different rooting materials
  • affecting diet selection
  • veal calves
  • rumen development
  • chewing activity
  • particle length
  • food preference
  • animal-welfare
  • feed
  • behavior


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