Effect of additional outdoor yard on behaviour of lactating domestic goats (Capra hircus) in different seasons

  • Paolo Negretti
  • Giovanna Bianconi
  • David Meo ZilioEmail author
  • Lorenzo Noè
  • Settimio Bartocci
  • Sabrina Di Giovanni
  • Stefano Terramoccia


This study covered the effects of an improvement of the breeding environment on the behaviour of lactating goats. Two groups of 25 lactating Saanen goats were used: animals were reared in indoor pen (1.6 m2/head) without (control IP group) or with (experimental OY group) access to an outdoor yard (1.0 m2/head). For the trial, carried out in two different periods (winter and spring) 5 days lasting, a specific ethogram including feeding, resting, moving and play fighting (mock butting) or socio-positive (nuzzling) social behaviour was developed. Animals’ behaviour was continuously video monitored. Goats in experimental OY group showed greater moving (P < 0.01), a tendency to less feeding and resting (P < 0.10). Social behaviour (butts + nuzzles), in both periods, showed significant differences (P < 0.01) between the two groups while as for the comparison among periods of the year, within the group, there were meaningful differences only for OY group (P < 0.01). Experimental OY group’s social behaviour analysis, between periods, revealed a significant difference in the outdoor yard only. On the other hand, the differences between indoor and outdoor were significant for both the periods (P < 0.01). Butts and nuzzles of the goats in the control IP group are statistically different only in the second period (P < 0.05). The OY group showed higher nuzzling in both periods, even though it was statistically confirmed only for the first one (P < 0.05). Comparing the OY group butts and nuzzles between the two periods, only butts proved statistically different (P < 0.05) according to an improvement in climatic conditions. Giving the goats the possibility to use an outdoor yard, their competitiveness increases. As for the use of the space by OY group, staying in the indoor pen and in the outdoor yard as well as the looking out activity time suggests that the behaviour of goats was influenced by climatic conditions with regard to the utilization of the outdoor yard exclusively (P < 0.01). Goats that have an external space available are more active in socialization and show greater disposition to perform their normal, natural and complete behaviour patterns.


Lactating Saanen goat Social relationship Butting Nuzzling 



This work was financially supported by the Regione Lazio within the Project “OPTOZOOTEC”. Many thanks to “Azienda Agricola Manzi Annunziata” (Montefiascone, Viterbo) for their assistance during the entire experimentation period carried out at their breeding farm.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRF-Cooperativa Ricerca Finalizzata-Parco Scientifico dell’Università Tor VergataRomaItaly
  2. 2.CREA-Centro di ricerca Zootecnia e AcquacolturaRomaItaly
  3. 3.Ager-Agricoltura e RicercaMilanItaly

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