The effect of post-capture management strategy on the welfare and productivity of wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) hinds introduced to farming systems

Goddard, P.J., Gordon, I.J., and Hamilton, W.J. (1996) The effect of post-capture management strategy on the welfare and productivity of wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) hinds introduced to farming systems. Animal Science, 63 (2). pp. 315-327.

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Wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) hinds were subjected to one of five post-capture management strategies during the period from capture in late pregnancy in March, until weaning in September. The treatments were: remained enclosed at the capture site; relocated to a remote site; relocated to a conventional deer farm on improved pasture; relocated to a conventional deer farm and grazed with farmed hinds; housed prior to calving on a conventional deer farm site. For a further year, all hinds were managed under conventional deer farm conditions. There was considerable evidence, based on mortality and behaviour, to suggest that initial housing of the hinds following capture compromised their welfare. Deaths of hinds (seven out of 20) occurred in this group, associated with bullying during the housed period. Hinds on this treatment also showed a higher frequency of aggressive interactions compared with the groups directly moved to the deer farm (11% v. 2% respectively of scans conducted at 10-min intervals over 6h; P < 0·001) and a reduced level of lying behaviour (15% v. 34 to 47% of scans; P < 0·001) during the gestation period. Similarly, during the calving period, this group lay the least (27% v. 43 to 72% of scans; P < 0·001) and the mean number of interactions between hinds reached 11·7 compared with 1·5 to 4·9 (F < 0·001) in the other groups over a continuous 6-h recording period. The two groups of hinds relocated directly onto sown swards were generally similar to one another in terms of behaviour and performance. However, the group mixed with farmed hinds suffered from considerable calf losses in year 1 due to disease (four out of 12). Losses of hinds over winter in year 1 (nine out of 90) occurred principally amongst those animals which had not become habituated to human presence or supplementary feeding in the summer, i.e. groups remaining enclosed at the capture site or relocated to a remote site. When all hinds were treated similarly in year 2 the hinds from these same two groups, together with those initially housed indoors, showed more hind-hind interactions overall than the two groups located directly onto the deer farm (7·2 v. 3·1 interactions per hind over a 4-h period; P < 0·02) and it is suggested that these hinds had not yet adapted to their new environment. An ACTH stimulation test conducted during year 2 supported the view that the two groups of hinds most recently introduced into the managed system were subject to a chronic stressor at the time of testing, since administration of ACTH did not elicit a significant increase in plasma cortisol concentrations (mean values pre- and post-ACTH 188 and 217 nmol/l respectively). In contrast, the mean plasma cortisol concentrations of the two groups managed under extensive farm conditions from the outset, showed a significant rise (pre- and post-ACTH, 261 and 376 nmol/l respectively; P < 0·01). From this it is concluded that their adaptation to the farm environment had already occurred. The live-weight gains of the wild hinds calves (229 g/day) on the improved pastures in the 1st year of the study were below that for farmed hinds calves (282 g/day; P < 0·05), suggesting that they were not habituated to the management system. However, by the end of year 2 animal performance was comparable with that of farmed hinds and calf growth rates reached 276 g/day. Thus while housing wild red deer immediately after capture is associated with poor welfare, analysis of behaviour, adrenal response and animal production over a longer period suggests that by the end of the study few important differences remained between the groups.

Item ID: 42623
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1748-748X
Keywords: behaviour, capture, management, productivity, red deer
Funders: Scottish Office of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2016 07:43
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0702 Animal Production > 070203 Animal Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830399 Livestock Raising not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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