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Effects of Separating Animals During Infancy from Their Mothers in Factory Farming

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Factories separate the mother and young and artificially rear the young in order to ensure the continuity of breeding or to increase food production for the global demand. However, just as how separating human mother and child causes stress in individuals, separating farm animals from their young causes behavioural, social and emotional impacts in the offspring. This paper serves to raise awareness among farmers and consumers about the impacts that separation from mothers has on the young of farm animals. It hopes to encourage farmers to allow the livestock young to be mother-reared instead of artificially reared and persuade consumers to support mother-rearing. This paper covers the effects of separating dairy cows, lambs and chickens during infancy from their mothers in factory farming. It does not cover how separation affects the mothers.

Increased food production is caused by the food market’s swift expansion globally. The growing population and economy create affluent family incomes, increasing the demand for food. As not many people are willing to try protein derived from plants, the increasing demand for a meat protein-focused diet causes the increase in demand for meat. The solution at hand is artificial farming, which imposes dire impacts on the young of animals. The first few days since birth are the most crucial in determining the health of the young. Hence, it is important for the young animals to have their mothers for guidance. When a chick is separated from the mother hen, it can develop abnormal behaviour like feather pecking. Separated chicks may also fail to decipher different calls of chickens and when threats are nearby they may not detect them and escape in time. For dairy calves, separating them from their mothers and the herd could stimulate stress, resulting in decreased sociality and hence lower behavioural activity. When they are isolated, they would be less active. Similarly, for ewes and lambs, they can become emotionally stressed. This may lead to increased vocalisation, less mobility and heightened cortisol response. Their immune system can also deteriorate, which affects their health. Mother rearing is defined as letting mother and offspring grow together. This leads to a strong bond between mother and young.

For chickens, hens teach their young about pecking, resting and dealing with threats. Their presence also helps to reduce stress in chicks. Mother-reared chicks are not as anxious and could better synchronize their behaviors with other chickens compared to those artificially reared. In dairy cows, when the calves are able to grow with the herd and mother, the calves have a high level of social interactions and little abnormal sucking behaviours. They are able to learn social skills and manage stress. As for ewes and lambs, mother rearing is defined as late weaning. This means that the lambs will be separated from their dams at a later timing. Late weaning causes less stress in the lambs as their bodies are more developed hence their immune systems can defend the body against diseases and internal parasites. It is tough for farmers to completely mother-rear the young farm animals. Thus, accommodating both artificial and mother rearing in farms is more feasible.

For dairy cows, instead of separating the calves from their mothers entirely, farmers could introduce a fence-line between them. This reduces stress of the calves as they can still have physical, visual and auditory contact with their mothers. This allows farmers to receive the same amount of milk from the mothers as entirely separating calves from their mothers would yield, and impacts on the welfare of calves will be minimised. For sheep, attaching a “nose ring” to lambs prevents them from suckling on their mother while still having physical contact with their mother. Hence, their welfare will not be compromised and more lambs can be produced as the lactation period of mother sheep is shortened. For chickens, broody hens are an effective replacement of normal hens as broody hens teach chicks to forage at an exceptionally young age, hence they can be separated from their mothers earlier. This way, production of eggs and chickens will be fast and chicks will still remain healthy. There is evidence that mother rearing and artificial rearing of livestock can take place together. Thus, should more people working in food production industries come up with similar solutions, the welfare of livestock can be improved which may in turn enhance the quality of food produced.

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Effects of Separating Animals During Infancy from their Mothers in Factory Farming. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
“Effects of Separating Animals During Infancy from their Mothers in Factory Farming.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019,
Effects of Separating Animals During Infancy from their Mothers in Factory Farming. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Jan. 2023].
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