Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dairy cows have individual temperaments

Date:
March 23, 2012
Source:
University of Groningen
Summary:
From a young age, dairy cows react differently from each other to stimuli from their surroundings. An animal’s temperament determines how it reacts in stressful situations, but may also influence its general health. In the future, temperament could be bred as a selective trait to improve the robustness and well-being of dairy cows.

Cows have individual temperaments.
Credit: eisbachfoto / Fotolia

From a young age, dairy cows react differently from each other to stimuli from their surroundings. An animal's temperament determines how it reacts in stressful situations, but may also influence its general health. In the future, temperament could be bred as a selective trait to improve the robustness and wellbeing of dairy cows.

This is the conclusion reached by zootechnician Kees van Reenen, who will receive a PhD from the University of Groningen on 30 March 2012.

Van Reenen studied black-and-white Holstein-Friesian cows as they developed from calf to cow. He carried out behavioural tests and physiological examinations in order to determine how the animals react to external stimuli. He focused on the following, among others: fear responses, lowing (vocalization), stamping, pulse and the release of cortisol as the external characteristics of underlying traits -- including timidity, the need for social contact and movement -- that, taken together, determine the temperament.

Jerry can

In order to study the differences in the reactions, Van Reenen subjected the animals to potentially stressful situations, namely securing them with a halter for a short period, separating them from the rest of the herd, and confronting them with a person or unfamiliar object. The unfamiliar object he used was a jerry can. 'In this test, the calf or cow enters an empty room in which, after a few minutes, a coloured jerry can appears using a pulley', Van Reenen explains. The differences between the animals' responses were very clear: some of them made contact with the jerry can after just a few seconds, while others didn't dare to approach it at all during the ten-minute test.'

Anxiolytic drug

Van Reenen was also able to measure the fear response physiologically: the animals that investigated the jerry can thoroughly and for the longest time had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood than the animals that were more cautious. In order to prove that the caution was indeed a fear response, Van Reenen administered an anxiolytic drug (Brotizolam) to the animals. Van Reenen: 'The length of contact with the jerry can increased considerably in the animals that had been given an anti-anxiety drug, and the cortisol levels fell more quickly after the test.

Lowing

Although lowing could be easily interpreted as a fear response in the first instance, this was not the case. Van Reenen: 'The frequency of the lowing did not change when the Brotizolam was administered. Apart from that, calves that lowed a great deal when separated from others in the herd had a higher milk yield when they were milked for the first time later, as heifers, than the animals that were less vocal. Therefore, lowing is not a fear response, but probably a form of social behaviour: a sign that they like to be near other cows. Animals that exhibit this behaviour could benefit from social contact with other animals in stressful situations -- when they are being milked, for example.

Robustness

Notably, the differences in temperament in individual animals proved consistent throughout the research period. Van Reenen: 'This shows that temperament is a stable underlying trait in the animal. We know from research into other species, such as coal tits and rats, that temperament can influence an animal's health and wellbeing. If that also applies to dairy cows, temperament could be bred as a selective trait to produce robust animals, in the same way as traits such as good bone structure, fertility and low susceptibility to mastitis.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Groningen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Groningen. "Dairy cows have individual temperaments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120323134531.htm>.
University of Groningen. (2012, March 23). Dairy cows have individual temperaments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120323134531.htm
University of Groningen. "Dairy cows have individual temperaments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120323134531.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins