Inter Sucking and Cross Sucking Behavior in Calves

Inter Sucking and Cross Sucking Behavior in Calves

Inter-sucking is most common abnormal behavior in early weaned cattle and buffalo calves as they have not given opportunity to satisfy their natural suckling instinct. They start sucking or licking the naval, prepuce, scrotum ears and tails of their herd mates and inanimate objects mostly of teat shaped. The scrotum sucking is very common among male calves. The testes are pushed up by the nose of sucking calf which then sucks on the empty scrotal sac. The posture and position of sucking calf is like the naturally suckling calf.   It has been observed that the calves involve in sucking have a relationship with one specific herd mate, which tolerates the sucking.  In majority of cases calves make a group and then they start sucking the different body parts of each other and arrange themselves in the form of ring or chain (cross sucking).

Occasionally two calves forms a pair bond in which mutual sucking takes place (inter-sucking) while self sucking seldom take place. The inter-sucking or cross sucking activities are most commonly seen immediately after feeding of milk and during this period in addition to sucking the appendages of their herd mates the calves start sucking whatever the things they can get in their surroundings.

Excessive inter-sucking and cross sucking may leads to formation of hair balls in the rumen which may affects the digestive functions as well as adversely affects the growth and vitality of the affected calves. Some times the inter-sucking may gets transformed in to insatiable sucking or biting which may results in to formation of wound in the suckled parts of the calves. Incidence of inter-sucking has been found to be more in those calves that were not allowed to suckle their dam rather they are pail fed and kept in groups from very beginning. In addition to this diet low in energy and proteins also predispose the calves to these types of abnormal behavior.

In the organized farm weaning of calves has becomes a routine practice due to which the problem of inter-sucking has been found to be more in newborn calves. Adopting certain managemental practices can minimize the incidence of inter-sucking. The calves should be tied up separately for an hour following bucket feeding as the inter-sucking among the weaned calves has been found to be maximal immediately after feeding of milk. The supply of good quality roughage and or concentrate mixture may also result in reduction in inter-sucking. In addition to this rubbing of one pinch common salt over the tongue of calves immediately after milk feeding has also been found to be quite useful. Besides the suckling of teat the time taken in consumption of milk is also important.

When calves are allowed for suckling their mothers they spend 60 minutes per day in doing so but when milk is being fed through bucket calves spend only 6 minutes per day (Sambraus, 1985). Hence to control this anomaly the best result are obtained by providing feeding condition which resemble those of normal ingestive behavior in young animals. In order to satisfy the natural suckling instinct of the calves the feeding of milk should be done through bottle with a nipple. This problem has also been observed in calves those were suckling their dam, in that situation the affected calves should be housed individually and if the individual housing of the calves is not possible then muzzle can be applied to the problematic calves or some repellents such as Neem oil should be smeared over the appendages of the calves. The ration given to the calves should be well balanced in terms of energy, proteins, minerals and vitamins.