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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING ANIMAL WELL-BEING, IMMUNOCOMPETENCE, AND PERFORMANCE IN SWINE AND BEEF CATTLE

Location: Livestock Issues Research

Title: Relationship of prenatal transportation stress with postnatal temperament of Brahman calves

Authors
item Littlejohn, Brittni -
item Price, Debbi -
item Lewis, Andy -
item Neuendorff, Don -
item Carroll, Jeffery
item Vann, Rhonda -
item Welsh Jr, Thomas -
item Randel, Ron -

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science Supplement
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 28, 2013
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Prenatal stress resulting from repeated transportation during gestation has been shown to increase postnatal adrenal responsiveness of calves to a stressor. The objective of the current experiment was to examine the relationship between prenatal stress and gestation length, calf birth weight, and subsequent calf temperament during the first 28 days of life. Mature Brahman cows (n = 89) were randomly assigned within cow temperament and sire of calf to serve as controls (n = 44) or to be transported (prenatal stress; n = 45) for 2 hour at 60, 80, 100, 120, and 140 days of gestation. At parturition, the gestation length, body weight, and sex of calf were recorded within 24 hour. This resulted in data from 27 control males, 17 control females, 21 prenatally stressed males, and 24 prenatally stressed females being recorded. On days 14 and 28 after birth, pen score (PS; 1 = calm and 5 = excitable) and exit velocity (EV; meters/second) were recorded and temperament score (TS) was calculated. One experienced evaluator determined PS for all calves. Gestation length and body weight at birth were analyzed by ANOVA. Birth weight was greater (P = 0.006) in males, and tended (P = 0.088) to be greater in prenatally stressed calves (stressed = 39.5 ± 0.07 kilgrams; control 37.8 ± 0.07 kilograms). Gestation length tended (P = 0.06) to be shorter in stressed (293.9 ± 1.0 days) compared to control (295.3 ± 1.0 days) calves. For PS, EV and TS, the data were analyzed using procedures of SAS specific for repeated measurements. Pen score was affected by treatment (P = 0.0475), but not by sex (P = 0.6806) or sex x treatment (P = 0.3236). Prenatally stressed calves' PS was greater (day 14 = 2.8 ± 0.2 and day 28 = 3.0 ± 0.2) than controls (day 14 = 2.3 ± 0.2 and day 28 = 2.3 ± 0.2). Exit velocity was affected by treatment (P = 0.435), but not by sex (P = 0.5674) or sex x treatment (P = 0.3382), with EV (meters/second) greater in prenatally stressed calves (day 14 = 1.4± 0.1 and day 28 = 1.9± 0.1) than controls (day 14 = 0.9 ± 0.1and day 28 = 1.7 ± 0.1). Temperament score was affected by treatment (P = 0.0269), but not by sex (P = 0.5517) or sex x treatment (P = 0.3461). Temperament score was greater in prenatally stressed calves (day 14 = 2.1 ± 0.2 and day 28 = 2.5 ± 0.2) than controls (day 14 = 1.6 ± 0.2 and day 28 = 2.0 ± 0.2). Given that prenatal stress tended to decrease gestation length and increase birth weight of Brahman calves, the authors speculate that it may have altered the fetal growth curve and adrenal function during gestation. Additionally, given that calves subjected to stress during gestation were more excitable, regardless of the measurement used to assess excitability, it could potentially have an impact on their health and performance as neonates.

Last Modified: 9/3/2014
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