Stereotypic behavior in fattening bulls
The occurrence of stereotypies in captive animals may indicate restrictions in animal welfare. In cattle, common stereotypies are tongue playing, manipulation of objects, or conspecifics. However, to our knowledge, the occurrence of stereotypies in fattening cattle was only analyzed in studies several decades old. Therefore, this study aimed to analyze the prevalence of stereotypies in fattening bulls housed in different systems. On three German fattening farms, a total of 243 fattening bulls housed in groups of 14, 16, 22, and 33 animals in straw-bedded pens were observed. Behavioral observations were performed via video recordings during three observation periods distributed over the whole fattening period, using a scan sampling technique. In 234 of 243 bulls, stereotypies were observed at least once. During 15.9 ± 2.4% of the scan intervals, stereotypies were observed in at least one animal per pen. Average numbers of stereotypies per animal and hour ranged from 0.2 to 0.9. The most common stereotypy was manipulating objects, followed by tongue playing and manipulating conspecifics. These results indicate that stereotypies are highly prevalent in fattening bulls under current housing conditions. They underline the need for further studies to analyze the causation of stereotypies in order to reduce their frequency.