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Domestic herbivores show a strong motivation to form associations with conspecifics and the social dynamics of any group is dependant on the individuals within the group. Thus, common farm management practices such mixing may cause social disruption. Social integration of new group members has previously been defined as a lack of aggressive interactions within the group. However, a lack of aggression among group members may not represent full integration into the social group. Here we observe the impact of disrupting groups of cattle via the introduction of an unfamiliar individual, on the social network patterns of six groups of cattle. Cattle contacts between all individuals in a group were recorded before and after the introduction of the unfamiliar individual. Pre-introduction, resident cattle showed preferential associations with specific individuals in the group. Post-introduction, resident cattle reduced the strength of their contacts (e.g., frequency) with each other relative to the pre-introduction phase. Unfamiliar individuals were socially isolated from the group throughout the trial. The observed social contact patterns suggest that new group members are socially isolated from established groups longer than previously thought, and common farm mixing practices may have negative welfare consequences on introduced individuals.
|Early online date||18 Feb 2023|
|Publication status||Print publication - Apr 2023|
- Animal welfare
- Social network analysis
- Contact patterns
- Social perturbation
- Group dynamics
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EPIC IV: Scottish Government's Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks, 2022 - 2025 (EPIC IV)
Gunn, G., Barnes, A., Reeves, A., Lawton, S., Tongue, S., Stirling, J., Rodrigues da Costa, M., Eze, J., Toma, L., Helgesen, I., Barratt, A., Sparks, N., Hutchinson, I. & Denniston, J.
1/04/22 → 31/03/25