Behaviour and welfare of fattening lambs supplemented with varying sizes and types of straw

Lorena A. Aguayo-Ulloa, Maria Pascual-Alonso, César González-Lagos, Genaro C. Miranda-de la Lama, Morris Villarroel, Begoña Asenjo, Virginia Resconi, Gustavo A. María

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3 Scopus citations


The aim was to evaluate the effect of size (long or chopped wheat straw), type (barley or wheat) and presence/absence (1 week) of straw supplementation on behaviour and welfare of fattening lambs. Sixteen lambs (65 days) were individually housed to be used in two simultaneous experiments (8 lambs each) for 5 weeks of fattening. After a habituation period, they were offered straw that differed either in size (Experiment 1) or type (Experiment 2), which was followed by a week without straw and then reallocation of straw. Maintenance behaviours, play and stereotypies were analysed using video recording. Physiological stress responses were measured using blood samples taken at the end of the week without straw and after the reallocation of the straw. A preference test was performed during the last week. Concentrate and roughage consumption, average daily gain and conversion index were estimated. Lambs provided with long straw spent more time eating forage, playing and performed fewer stereotypies (Experiment 1). Lambs given wheat straw increased their play behaviour compared with those given barley straw, without affecting stereotypies (Experiment 2). When the straw was removed, lambs performed more behaviours associated with stress; however, this was not reflected in blood stress indicators. Lambs clearly preferred long straw over chopped straw, but no clear preference was observed between wheat and barley straw. The amount of forage intake was consistent with the time spent eating forage, but the amount of concentrate intake did not vary with eating concentrate behaviour, since the amount of concentrate intake was higher when the straw was removed, especially in Experiment 2. Our results show that size more than type of straw supplement impact the behaviour of lambs. Long straw reduces the stereotypies and increases play. This may improve the welfare and performance of fattening lambs, adding ethical value to a highly appreciated product.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1747-1757
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • behaviour
  • indoor feedlot
  • lambs
  • sensory enrichment
  • single pen
  • straw


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