Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING ANIMAL WELL-BEING, IMMUNOCOMPETENCE, AND PERFORMANCE IN SWINE AND BEEF CATTLE Title: Review: Interactions between temperament, stress, and immune function in cattle

Authors
item Sanchez, Nicole
item Randel, Ron -
item Carroll, Jeffery
item Welsh Jr, Tom -

Submitted to: International Journal of Zoology
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: March 10, 2011
Publication Date: May 13, 2011
Citation: Burdick, N.C., Randel, R., Carroll, J.A., Welsh Jr, T. 2011. Interactions between temperament, stress, and immune function in cattle. International Journal of Zoology. Volume 2011, Article ID 373197. 9 p.

Interpretive Summary: Animals are exposed to stress in many management practices that are used by the livestock industry. As stress is known to inhibit many systems, including growth, reproduction, and the immune system, excess stress can result in an economic burden on the producer due to the costs needed to treat sick animals and maintain growth and productivity. In recent years, animal behavior has been linked to stress. Specifically in cattle, the behavioral response to novel environments or handling by humans is termed temperament. Cattle that express more excitable temperaments also have greater circulating concentrations of stress hormones. Similar to stress, temperament has been demonstrated to inhibit weight gain, reproduction, milk production, carcass characteristics, and immune function. This review article highlights the literature available on interactions between stress and temperament in cattle. It also discusses recent evidence that suggests a linkage between temperament and immune function. A better understanding of the relationship between stress and temperament and how they influence the immune system would allow producers to better select against temperamental cattle, and would allow the modification of management practices to reduce the negative effects of temperament on cattle production.

Technical Abstract: Stressors encountered by animals can pose economic problems for the livestock industry due to increased costs to the producer as well as the consumer. Stress can also adversely affect many physiological systems, including the reproductive and immune systems. In recent years, stress has been associated with behavior in cattle, specifically temperament. Cattle with more excitable temperaments exhibit greater basal concentrations of glucocorticoids and catecholamines. Similar to stress, more temperamental cattle have poorer growth, carcass characteristics, and poorer immune responses. Thus, understanding the interaction between stress and temperament can help in the development of selection and management practices that reduce the negative influence of temperament on growth and productivity of cattle. This review discusses the interaction between stress and temperament, and the developing evidence of an effect of temperament on immune function.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014