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 28, 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 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? 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