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Maria Vilain Rørvang

Maria Vilain Rørvang
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, Sweden · Department of Biosystems and Technology

MSc, PhD

About

43
Publications
4,506
Reads
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210
Citations
Introduction
My research area "Animal-adapted housing systems", covers a holistic and systematic approach to studying indoor and outdoor animal housing systems. My research mainly focusses on how animals perceive their physical and social environment, and how this information can be used to optimize the housing and management of animals under human car. I am interested in understanding the cognitive and sensory abilities of animals, and I aim to optimize modern animal housing to be motivation-based and safe.

Publications

Publications (43)
Article
Full-text available
Dairy cows are generally calm and compliant, but some management procedures can make cows fearful or stressed. Not only are fearful cattle a threat to human safety, but fear is also detrimental to animal welfare and productivity. This study aimed to test whether fear in small groups of dairy cattle could be attenuated by the presence of a calm and...
Preprint
Full-text available
The ability of cattle to adapt to husbandry systems and routines is crucial for the functionality of the production. However, this ability can be compromised by our limited knowledge of their cognitive abilities, which may result in suboptimal husbandry and management standards. In this scoping review, we highlight three key topics of cattle cognit...
Article
Full-text available
Many frameworks have assessed the ultimate and ontogenetic underpinnings in the development of object permanence, but less is known about whether individual characteristics, such as sex or training level, as well as proximate factors, such as arousal or emotional state, affect performance in these tasks. The current study investigated horses’ perfo...
Article
Full-text available
Many frameworks have assessed the ultimate and ontogenetic underpinnings in the development of object permanence, but less is known about whether individual characteristics, such as sex or training level, as well as proximate factors, such as arousal or emotional state, affect performance in these tasks. The current study investigated horses’ perfo...
Poster
Full-text available
Object permanence refers to an individual’s understanding that an object continues to exist even though it is out of its sight. In their daily management, horses are often faced with novel and sudden stimuli (re-)appearing from occluded areas that potentially may elicit stress responses. Knowledge of horses’ ability to track hidden objects can thus...
Poster
The sense of olfaction plays a key role in the development and expression of behaviour in mammals. In spite of this, olfaction is rarely considered in horse training and equitation science. Knowledge about the olfactory abilities of horses is thus sparse although there may be potential to use olfaction in various situatuions. In this study, we inve...
Preprint
Full-text available
Many frameworks have assessed the ultimate and ontogenetic underpinnings in the development of object permanence, but less is known about whether individual characteristics, such as sex or training level, as well as proximate factors, such as arousal or emotional state, affect performance in these tasks. The current study investigated horses' perfo...
Preprint
Full-text available
In spite of the highly developed olfactory apparatus of horses, implying a high adaptive value, research on equine olfaction is sparse. Our limited knowledge poses a risk that horse behaviour does not match human expectations. The benefit of acquiring more knowledge of equine olfaction is therefore twofold; 1) it can aid the understanding of horse...
Preprint
In spite of the highly developed olfactory apparatus of horses, implying a high adaptive value, research on equine olfaction is sparse. Our limited knowledge on equine olfaction poses a risk that horse behaviour does not match human expectations, as horses e.g. might react fearful when exposed to certain odours which humans do not consider as frigh...
Presentation
Plenary presentation Abstract: Dairy cattle are managed in modern housing systems on a daily basis. Behaving in these systems requires different aspects of cognitive functioning, ranging from simply locating food, to manoeuvre e.g. an automatic milking robot. As our current knowledge about cattle cognition and learning is still limited we need to a...
Chapter
Full-text available
Understanding the cognitive capacities of cattle is central when designing husbandry environments and developing handling regimes. In this chapter, we outline the current knowledge on cattle learning and cognition, with special emphasis on their socio-cognitive capacities. Cattle easily learn features and spatial cues and can remember these for a l...
Article
Full-text available
Many breeding organisations include a subjective scoring of rideability by a professional rider into their evaluation of sports horses, but the consistency and reliability of the scoring system is debateable. The aim of this study was to investigate (i) whether professional riders agree in their scoring of rideability, and (ii) whether rideability...
Article
Full-text available
Vision, hearing, olfaction, taste, and touch comprise the sensory modalities of most vertebrates. With these senses, the animal receives information about its environment. How this information is organized, interpreted, and experienced is known as perception. The study of the sensory abilities of animals and their implications for behavior is centr...
Article
Full-text available
Animals can acquire new behavior through both individual and social learning. Several studies have investigated horses’ ability to utilize inter-species (human demonstrator) social learning with conflicting results. In this study, we repeat a previous study, which found that horses had the ability to learn from observing humans performing an instru...
Poster
Full-text available
Abstract: Successful reproduction is central for a sustainable dairy production. Housing peri-parturient cows in individual pens have been suggested as a means to ensure a successful calving and safeguard animal welfare. This practice is recommended in several countries worldwide. However, the underlying pre-partum maternal motivations of dairy cow...
Presentation
Full-text available
Abstract: There are several mechanisms through which the behaviour of animals can be altered from observing others. These mechanisms are fundamentally different in terms of cognitive complexity, and range from simple hard-wired processes (social facilitation) to social enhancement of individual learning (local/stimulus enhancement) to genuine learn...
Presentation
Abstract: Calving is a central event in dairy production, but may be overlooked from the perspective of animal welfare. In some countries, individual maternity pens are recommended based on scientific studies. Understanding the motivation underlying pre-partum behaviour may help manage cows to enable calving in a calm and secluded place, where they...
Article
Use of individual maternity pens for dairy cows is recommended to ensure undisturbed calving and postpartum transfer of colostrum to calves, but management of these pens is a challenge due to difficulty predicting the time of calving. If group-housed cows, however, have the opportunity to calve in a secluded area of a group pen, this may limit dist...
Article
• An on-farm assessment of keel bone, feet, plumage and skin damage was conducted in layers in small furnished cages to evaluate welfare implications. • Thirteen farms participated, all housing Lohmann LSL layers in systems allowing eight or 10 hens per cage. • Each flock was visited at three different ages: 32, 62 and 77 weeks. During each visit,...
Article
Transmission of fear and attenuation of fear within groups of farm animals remain relatively unexplored, despite the importance for human and animal safety. This paper reports the results of two separate experiments, aiming to explore social transmission of habituation in horses at group level. In Experiment 1, the effect of a same-age demonstrator...
Presentation
As group-living animals, horses are often assumed capable of acquiring new behaviour through social learning. Solid evidence of true social learning in horses is however lacking. Research on the topic includes a variety of studies, some of which may over-estimate the mental abilities of horses. Assuming such abilities in their absence can have detr...
Article
Full-text available
Prima facie, the acquisition of novel behaviors in animals through observation of conspecifics seems straightforward. There are, however, various mechanisms through which the behavior of animals can be altered from observing others. These mechanisms range from simple hard-wired contagious processes to genuine learning by observation, which differ f...
Article
Under natural conditions, cows seek isolation and visual cover when calving becomes imminent, but the degree of visual cover necessary to provide an attractive calving site is not known. When calving indoors, preparturient cows are attracted to other cows' birth fluids, and this may influence their isolation seeking. Therefore, we aimed to investig...
Presentation
Abstract: The event of giving birth is an essential part of animal production. In dairy cattle production, substantial economical and welfare-related challenges arise around the time of calving, and hence focus is placed on efficient management of the parturient cow. Aiming to understand the biological basis of bovine pre-partum maternal behavior,...
Article
Full-text available
The event of giving birth is an essential part of animal production. In dairy cattle production, there are substantial economical and welfare-related challenges arising around the time of parturition, and hence increased focus on efficient management of the calving cow. Drawing on the research literature on prepartum maternal behavior, this review...
Article
Full-text available
In order to improve animal welfare it is recommended that dairy farmers move calving cows from the herd to individual pens when calving is imminent. However, the practicality of moving cows has proven a challenge and may lead to disturbance of the cows rather than easing the process of calving. One solution may be to allow the cow to seek isolation...
Data
Cow performing the last step in the training procedure for cows housed with functional gates. The video mimics the training situation as this particular cow is not an experimental cow. She was trained on randomly chosen pens and with the five other group members present. Prior to this take, the cow has been successful in all the previous training s...
Data
Data. The data sheet provided for this study includes all necessary information in order to recalculate the results of the study. The sheet has one horizontal line for each individual cow in the experiment and each cow has its own identification number (‘cow_number’). All subsequent columns has an explanation line on the top of the sheet and whenev...
Article
The sense of smell is likely to influence the behaviour of domestic and captive animals in a wide range of management and housing situations. In domestic cattle, there may be unexploited potential for using odours and olfaction in the management; however, published studies on bovine olfactory capacity are scarce. By applying an olfactory Habituatio...
Poster
Full-text available
Highlights: - Isolation seeking was influenced by social aspects: Dominant cows had the highest chance of calving in a calving pen. - The presence of an alien calf lowered the chance of calving in a calving pen. - We found no effect of a closing gate in calving pens on isolation seeking. The poster won the Best Poster Award, voted by the confer...
Presentation
Olfaction is the main sensory modality in the majority of mammalian species, playing a key role in their interactions with the environment. However, the link between chemical signals and animal behaviour has often been ignored, especially with respect to large domestic species. In cattle, there may be unexploited potential for using odours and olfa...
Article
In modern calving facilities dairy cows either calve in a group pen or are moved to a separate individual pen when calving is imminent. In practice, cows are often moved too close to calving, which poses a health risk to cow and calf. Thus, a need exists for new calving facility designs and management practices that better align with the motivation...
Article
A calving cow and her newborn calf appear to have an attracting effect on periparturient cows, which may potentially influence the functionality of future motivation-based calving pen designs. In this pilot study we examined whether calving site selection of group-housed Holstein dairy cows was affected by the site of a previous calving. Ten multip...
Poster
Full-text available
Among ungulates, amniotic fluids and placenta contain olfactory cues that stimulate maternal behaviour and facilitate establishment of the mother-offspring bond. On pasture, cow’s attraction to amniotic fluids starts hours before calving, and might play a role in calving site selection. This pilot study investigated calving site selection when amni...
Conference Paper
Parturition is painful and dystocia is associated with both economical loses and compromised animal welfare. Previous studies have shown that dairy cows prefer shelter at calving (Proudfoot et al. , J. Anim. Sci. 97: 2731-2739, 2014) and that moving the cow late before calving prolongs the process of calving (Proudfoot et al., J. Dairy Sci. 96: 163...
Presentation
Parturition is an essential but however risky process for the dairy cow. Calving difficulty is known to be associated with both economical loses and compromised animal welfare. Late moving of the cow before calving and housing in free stalls have been found to prolong the process of calving. However, it is still not known whether the design of the...
Article
Habituated horses have been found to have a calming effect on conspecifics in fear-eliciting situations. In practice, experienced horses are often used as companions when young horses are introduced to potentially frightening situations, like loading onto a trailer. However, studies of social transmission of habituation in horses are scarce. This s...
Article
Social animals should have plenty of opportunities to learn from conspecifics, but most studies have failed to document social learning in horses. This study investigates whether young Icelandic horses can learn a spatial detour task through observation of a trained demonstrator horse of either the same age (Experiments 1 and 2, n = 22) or older (E...
Poster
Social animals should have plenty of opportunities to learn from conspecifics, but most studies have failed to document social learning in horses. This study investigated the ability of young Icelandic horses (n=46, 2-3 years old) to learn a spatial detour task by observing a trained, familiar and dominant demonstrator of either the same age (Exper...
Poster
Habituated horses have been found to have a calming effect on conspecifics, and this study investigated whether a habituated demonstrator influenced the willingness of young Icelandic horses (2-3 years old) to cross a novel surface. All horses were initially trained to go through a 4-m opening in a fence to obtain food. In Experiment 1 (n=22), a wh...

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Projects

Projects (7)
Project
Ever wondered what a horse can smell? If it can detect the same odours as we humans? Or if mares, stallions and geldings differ in their olfactory interests and abilities? And what about pregnancy? They say pregnant women change in their olfactory abilities and preferences as gestation develops. These are the questions we set out to answer in this project. Olfaction is almost entirely unexplored in equids and hence this project is pioneering yet only scratching the surface of the topic. In this project we develop a test to explore olfaction in horses. The test situation will be adapted to horses’ natural behaviour and we will test 4 different odours. Additionally, the project seeks to explore effects of sex, age and pregnancy on level of interest in the four odours.
Project
Project aims: Can cows watch and learn when observing other cows performing a detour task? Will cows react less fearful when crossing a novel surface after watching a calm companion crossing the novel surface?
Project
Pigs are highly motivated for exploring. When commercially kept pigs are unable to satisfy their need for performing this behaviour, it can be detrimental for both animal welfare and farm economy. Despite the pig’s highly developed sense of smell, the potential to use odours as enrichment tools in modern pig production has only received very little attention. This project aims to investigate the potential of using odours to optimize current enrichment strategies and thereby improve animal welfare alongside farm economy.