Effects of an odor or taste stimulus applied to an artificial teat on the suckling behavior of newborn dairy calves

  • Malidaki, Maria (Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University) ;
  • Laska, Matthias (Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University)
  • Received : 2017.12.08
  • Accepted : 2018.04.16
  • Published : 2018.04.30


Background: In their first days of life, dairy calves in artificial rearing systems often have difficulty using an artificial teat for feeding. Methods: We examined the age at which calves are able to stand up voluntarily and suckle as well as their suckling behavior when presented with a plain dry teat versus a dry teat modified with a presumably attractive odor or taste substance. Single-housed newborn dairy calves (n = 51) were presented for ten consecutive days with a two-minute two-choice test, in which suckling time was recorded for 1) a plain (control) teat versus a glucose-coated teat (taste test) and 2) a plain teat versus a teat with a "Freshly Cut Grass" odor (odor test). Results: On average, the calves were able to stand up voluntarily and suckle from the second or third day of age on. The "Freshly Cut Grass" odor had no significant effect on their suckling behavior. In contrast, the calves showed a significant preference for suckling the glucose-coated teat and displayed a significantly longer total suckling time in the taste test compared to the odor test. There were no significant differences between sexes regarding suckling behavior. Conclusion: The results of the present study show that glucose had a significant effect on the calves' teat preference and significantly increased total suckling time with a dry artificial teat. As such, glucose may increase suckling motivation in non-efficient drinkers or ill calves with low motivation to suckle.


Artificial teat;Dairy calves;Glucose;Odor;Suckling behavior;Taste