Is social status passed on from cow to calf?
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Within a herd of cows a complex social structure exists. Ranking orders between cows are not simply linear and difficult to see. Knowledge on social structure between calves is limited. Only a few studies were performed on calf behavior and none were done specifically on calf dominance, which is not exhibited by calves until five months of age, according to some reports. It would be interesting to determine whether calves that have dominant mothers are themselves prone to be dominant calves. If so, one could select replacement cows on basis of their social status because social ranking is related to lameness prevalence and milk yield in the adult life. Negative effects of low ranking positions can be lack of socio-positive relationships and hygiene. In order to determine if social status is passed on from cow to calf, 23 cows and their calves were followed during a period of 6 weeks. Ranking orders for both cows and calves were determined and analyzed, but no significant correlation was found. Social status is apparently not passed on from cow to calf. Calves of high ranking mother do not have a greater chance of being high ranking themselves. Furthermore a significant difference was found in the types of dominance behaviour expressed by cows and calves. Cows perform more flank pushes whereas calves perform more head butts.