Other Behavioural Problems

Buller Steer Syndrome

In this type of anomaly the young male calves (Rider) mount their herd mates willing to be mounted (Buller). There is no intromission attempt made by rider, although some times there may be partial penile erection. The riders perform the mounting attempts either from the sides or from the front of the bullers. Young male calves weaned early in life as well as kept in intensive housing system are prone to development of this type of behavioral problem. Addition of new steer to a well-established group of male calves result in an increased incidence of buller steer syndrome. Some time the bulling may be the part of hierarchical contesting.

In order to reduce the incidence of buller steer syndrome close watch should be kept over the steers at least once a day, for identification of buller. The bullers are separated from the lot and kept with fewer animal groups. Newborn male calves should be kept with their mother for some time, which will inhibit the confined indoors. It has been reported that around 11.39 per cent of total animal in the herd are suffering with this type of behavior problem.

Tongue Rolling or Playing

In this type of behavioral anomaly animals extrude their tongue from the mouth and moved by curling and uncurling outside or inside of the mouth. After that partial swallowing of the tongue and gulping of the air take place. It is perform by cows and buffaloes to satisfy their instinct of prehension of forage plants during grazing. Tongue rolling is seen most frequently immediately before and after feeding. It has been observed that hereditable factor and early weaning of calves can increase the incidence of this behavior.

Animal should be left for grazing or they should be given the freedom of movement by keeping them untied for few hours. Visual separation of affected animal is required to prevent the spread of this behavioral abnormality to other animals and they should be given some unchaffed fodder for chewing. Animals having the habit of tongue playing should not be kept as breeding stock.

Eye Rolling

This is condition in which eyes are moved in orbit at a time when there are no visible objects present in surroundings of the animal. Affected calves stand immobile for extended period of time, head is held motion less along with rolling of the eyes and it is repeated frequently. This behavior has been found to be more in those calves that are kept in confinement in individual calf box and lack the access to loafing area. Calves should be given some loafing area for walking and exercise and if this is not possible then they should be kept loose for some period of time.

Head Shaking or Nodding 

Head shaking has been observed mostly in the adult animals that are being kept in confined housing environment for all the time. Animal while shaking the head they hit their head with manger, wall of the house, peg etc. and they keep it up for a long time if not being interrupted. They start doing this activity at any time whenever they become free after taking their feed, but the maximum incidence has been observed during night hours. Such animals create nuisance to their owner if they are being kept adjacent to the residing room of the owner.

As the problem of head shaking arises as a consequence of confined housing environment so it will be better if the animals are allowed for grazing or they should be kept untied for few hours so that may involve in social interaction with each other.  

Feed Related Vices

In order to satisfy their natural grazing and exploratory instincts some dairy animals are found to be indulge in some feed related vices such as – Feed tossing, Dropping of feed and Water lapping. In feed tossing behavior the animal starts rooting, sorting and finally tossing the feeds along the sides of manger. In feed dropping behavior the animal drops feeds from an elevated feed manger to the ground and then eats that feed which may be the cow’s solution of fulfilling her natural grazing instinct. Such behavior by the dairy animals may result in to 5 per cent feed loss of the feed offered to them. In water lapping behavior the animal starts licking at water instead of drinking. It is commonly seen in animals that are not allowed for grazing and are deprived of any exercise.

Problems associated with feeding of animals can be over come by allowing grazing to the animals that are kept tied on their feeding stall round the clock. In case grazing facilities are not available then they may be kept loose for at least one hour daily so that they can overcome the frustration of being confined at one place. The fodder should be chaffed finely so that all part of the fodder plants get properly mixed which will preclude any preferential feeding by the   animal. The mangers should be properly designed and the bottoms of the mangers should be close to the ground level so that the animals may satisfy their grazing behavior to some extent.


Some parts of body is moved back and forward by the animal against a solid object. The movement is repeated so many times that it could not function only to alleviate a local irritation. It is more common in animals kept in confinement and comparatively more noticeable in horned breed and more common in bull than the other stock.

Bar Biting 

In this condition animal clamps his jaws around a bar and moving the head forth and back for a minute or more. Bar biting has been reported in 10 per cent in bulls reared at National Dairy Research Institute Karnal. Incidence of this behavioral problem has been found to be more in calves weaned in early age as well in those calves that are being kept in individual calf box and not having access to loafing area. This behaviour develops due to confinement for long duration at one place and weaning of calve in very early age life.

This problem can be managed by feeding the calves by using artificial nurser/teat if weaning of calve in early age can’t be avoided and  use bedding material such as wheat or paddy straw which will provide oral occupation to calves.

Some considerations to prevent the development of abnormal behavior in cattle and buffaloes

  • If possible one should follow loose housing system and house the animals as per their age, body wt., physiological status and social hierarchy in the herd.
  • In case the farmers are bound to opt for conventional housing system then they should provide ample space to animal for walking and exercise. If calves are weaned immediately after birth or at very early age then milk feeding to the calves should be done by artificial teats or a bottle with a screw nipple and immediately after milk feeding they should be fed ground grain mixture/wheat bran so as to distract them from indulging in inter-sucking.