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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium, 18-20 May 2005 (Beijing, China) Publication Date 18 May 2005  701P0205.(doi:10.13031/2013.18433)
Authors:   Qiang Zang, Yajun Zhao, Baoming Li, Zhengxiang Shi, Jing Han
Keywords:   Chinese little fat-tailed sheep, loose housing system, individual behaviors, temperature effect, space allowance, animal needs

Chinese little fat-tailed sheep (Ovis aries) have superior productive traits with average litters of 2.6 lambs. The little fat-tailed sheep are used as mutton/wool type breeds, which are adapted to feed in an intensive production system. From 2000 until now, a loose housing system has been employed to raise up to 20,000 sheep on a farm in Inner Mongolia of China. In order to evaluate animal needs and welfare in the housing of sheep, it is necessary to establish a quantified behavioral data of sheep as feedback. We observed and recorded individual behaviors of lambs, pregnant ewes and lactating ewes on the farm during the summer of 2003. Statistical analysis of the animal behavioral measures are as follows: (1) Behavioral patterns in duration from observed samples (9 in each group) were made up of: time spent in resting was 31.51%, in eating and drinking 29.18%, in rumination 28.37%, in locomotion 10.21%, and in others 0.71% including environmental investigation (look or watch, air sniff, and startling response to sound arising suddenly, etc) and social interaction (mutual grooming, mutual play, aggression, etc). Effects of three growth phases on individual behavioral durations of the sheep were analyzed by KruskalC Wallis H tests, showing significant difference in durations with respect to eating and drinking, rumination, resting, and locomotion respectively (df=2, all P0.001), but no in the other behaviors (d f=2, all P>0.05). (2) Results of posture choice of the sheep in different growth phases show that time spent in lying for rumination or resting was significantly more than time spent standing by lambs, pregnant and lactating ewes respectively (all P<0.001,Wilcoxon-Test). (3) The counts data of animal behaviours in three levels of temperature showed that on average 31.3 % of individuals were lying on a solid-bricked floor for rumination and resting at 21~23C, 75 % at 25~27C, 97.13% at 29~31C in houses of pregnant ewes. This is a significant effect of temperature on number of pregnant ewes lying on floor of the houses (df=2, P<0.05, Friedman Test). (4) Our data of counts of the pregnant ewes selecting space in lying on floor in the houses from 1200 to 1700 h at temperature ranging 27~31C, showed that there was significant differences in individuals selecting between A-zone (places naturally ventilated well and without sun shining) and B-zone (places exposed to the sun) (all P<0.0001, McNemar Test). The ewes had an individual space allowance at least 3.36m2 in each of the houses to allow them to disperse when lying for rumination or resting. Our results indicate that the behavioral patterns of sheep in the loose housing systems react to the physiological needs at different growing period, and to environmental impact factors such as temperature and housing space. The study suggests that to establish a quantitative index profile of the sheep behaviors for a feedback review tool may be helpful to enhance the design of production processes and building layout and environment for loose housing systems.

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