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Title: Approaches for assessing temperament in calves post-weaning

Author
item Barkley, K - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Pullen, L - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Kopanko, A - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Tanner, A - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Blevins, S - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Wahlberg, M - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Swecker, W - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item Neel, James - Jim
item Clapham, William
item Lewis, R - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University

Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2010
Publication Date: 7/11/2010
Citation: Barkley, K.L., Pullen, L.D., Kopanko, A.M., Tanner, A.E., Blevins, S.R., Wahlberg, M.L., Swecker, W., Neel, J.P., Clapham, W.M., Lewis, R.M. 2010. Approaches for assessing temperament in calves post-weaning [abstract]. Journal of Animal Science. 88(2):791-792.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Cattle undergo routine management, which may cause anxiety with potential to impact well-being and performance. Our objectives were to develop procedures to reliably evaluate calf behavior indicative of stress, and determine whether behaviors change under repeated handling. A factorial design of 2 measurement protocols [regular (R), irregular (I)], and 3 recording periods, each 1 mo apart, was used. The R measurements were collected over 3 consecutive d; I measurements were collected on d 1 within a period. Twenty Angus-cross heifer calves, 2 wk post-weaning, were randomly assigned to each protocol. Calves were weighed, calmly moved into a squeeze chute, and their head caught. Behavior was scored by 3 observers from 1 (docile) to 5 (aggressive). Heart rate (HR), and blood and fecal samples, were collected. Exit velocity (EV) on release was measured electronically over 2 m. Calves were penned individually with the same human presence, and again scored. Fecal and plasma cortisol concentrations were determined by immunoassay. Data were analyzed with ANOVA. Protocol, period, and their interaction, were compared on d 1. Within R, period, day, and their interaction, were fitted. Score was also a covariate to assess cortisol. Chute (0.33 +/-0.16; P=0.04) and pen (0.52 +/- 0.12; P<0.001) scores, and HR (20 +/- 5 beat/min; P<0.001), were less, and EV slower (0.43 +/- 0.09 sec; P<0.001), in R than I. Chute score decreased across periods in R while increased slightly in I (P=0.03). In R in a period, chute score declined with d (0.34 +/- 0.14; P=0.05), with little change in pen score, EV or HR (P>0.17). Chute and pen score were highly correlated in R (0.55; P<0.001) albeit less so in I (0.31; P=0.04). No patterns in fecal cortisol concentrations were found. Plasma cortisol was 0.61 as much at period 3 than 1 (P<0.001); it increased with chute and pen score (P=0.01). Plasma cortisol concentration in R was 0.78 as much at d 3 than 1, and increased with chute score (P=0.01). Repeated, quiet handling reduced ill temperament with less signs of stress. Chute score, which is quickly assessed, is indicative of anxiety in weaned calves and could be used to monitor husbandry practices.