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The effect of shearing sheep on feeding and behaviour in the pre-embarkation feedlot

Aguilar, Lourdes-Angelica (2016) The effect of shearing sheep on feeding and behaviour in the pre-embarkation feedlot. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Sheep entering the live export chain will experience increased handling, novel forms of feed, and novel environments before the journey on the export ship itself; all occurring over a period of around one month (Norris et al., 1989a). These factors can also cause stress (Kilgour & DeLangen, 1970; Hargreaves & Hutson, 1990a, 1990b; Doyle et al., 2010; Sanger et al., 2011), which could lead to a high incidence of inappetance and mortality (Norris & Richards, 1989b; Higgs et al., 1993). This study was conducted to determine whether the day of shearing could affect feeding and behaviour of sheep in the pre-embarkation period.

Sheep were fitted with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that could be picked up by tracking antennae at all water and feed troughs in the pens when the sheep’s head was in such a position that the sheep was likely to be eating or drinking. The system then would record the total amount of time the sheep spent at the troughs per day. The sheep were shorn on either day 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 and an ethogram was generated through analysis of 60-second video clips from footage of the sheep filmed one hour after shearing.

There was no difference in time spent at feed troughs between any treatment groups on any day. There was a treatment effect, with the control (unshorn) group spending more time at the water trough; however, there were no difference between the other groups in time spent at water troughs or any behavioural states or events.

The results suggest that shearing may occur on any day during the pre-embarkation feedlot period, and that current management practices do not disrupt time spent at the feed trough.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor(s): Barnes, Anne, Collins, Teresa and Wickham, Sarah
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