Progressive habituation to separation alleviates the negative effects of weaning in the mother and foal

Léa Lansade, Aline Foury, Fabrice Reigner, Marianne Vidament, Elodie Guettier, Gwenaelle Bouvet, Delphine Soulet, Céline Parias, Alice Ruet, Nuria Mach, Frédéric Lévy, Marie-Pierre Moisan
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018-11-01; 97: 59-68
DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.07.005

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1. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Nov;97:59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.07.005.
Epub 2018 Jul 5.

Progressive habituation to separation alleviates the negative effects of weaning
in the mother and foal.

Lansade L(1), Foury A(2), Reigner F(3), Vidament M(4), Guettier E(3), Bouvet
G(4), Soulet D(4), Parias C(4), Ruet A(4), Mach N(5), Lévy F(4), Moisan MP(2).

Author information:
(1)INRA, PRC, CNRS, IFCE, University Tours, Nouzilly, France. Electronic address:
(2)INRA, UMR 1286, Université Bordeaux, Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée,
Bordeaux, France.
(3)INRA, UEPAO 297, Nouzilly, France.
(4)INRA, PRC, CNRS, IFCE, University Tours, Nouzilly, France.
(5)INRA, UMR 1313, AgroParisTech, University Paris-Saclay Jouy-en-Josas, France.

Early and definitive separation between offspring and their mothers has negative
consequences on behavioral and physiological responses. This study compared
sudden and definitive weaning (Sudd group, N = 16) and weaning involving
progressive habituation to separation using a fence line during the month
preceding definitive separation (Prog group, N = 18). The impact of these two
methods was assessed in both foals and their mothers through behavioral and
biological parameters, including salivary cortisol, telomere length and blood
transcriptomes. On the day of definitive separation, Prog foals neighed and
trotted less and presented lower cortisol levels than Sudd foals. The weaning
type also acted on the foals’ personality development; Prog foals became more
curious, less fearful and less gregarious than Sudd foals, and the effects
remained visible for at least 3 months. In principal component analysis, the Sudd
and Prog groups were well separated along a factor where fear, reactivity and
gregariousness correlated with high cortisol levels, but curiosity was associated
with an increased telomere length and higher expression of genes involved in
mitochondrial functions. Progressive weaning was also beneficial in mares.
Principal component analysis showed that most Sudd group mares had higher
cortisol levels and displayed more alert postures, neighs and activity on the day
of weaning, indicating higher stress levels, while Prog mares had profiles that
were characterized by more time spent resting on the day of weaning and longer
telomere lengths. In conclusion, this study shows that progressive habituation to
separation alleviates the negative effect of definitive weaning on both the
mother and her young compared to sudden separation.

Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.07.005
PMID: 30005282

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