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J Anim Sci. 2000 Jun;78(6):1467-74.

The relationship between reaction to sudden, intermittent movements and sounds and temperament.

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Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523-1171, USA.


Casual observations indicated that some cattle are more sensitive to sudden movement or intermittent sound than other cattle. Six commercial livestock auctions in two states and a total of 1,636 cattle were observed to assess the relationship between breed, sex, and temperament score on the response to sudden, intermittent visual and sound stimuli, such as the ringman swinging his arm for a bid and the sound of him briefly yelling a bid. A 4-point temperament score was used to score each animal while it was in the ring. The scores used were 1) walks and(or) stands still, with slow, smooth body movements; 2) continuously walks or trots, and vigilant; 3) gait is faster than a trot (runs even a couple of steps), with fast, abrupt, jerky movements, and very vigilant; and 4) hits the ring fence, walls, partitions, or people with its head. Animals were observed for flinches, startle responses, or orientation toward sudden, intermittent sounds, motions, and tactile stimulation, such as being touched with a cane or plastic paddle. The cattle observed were mostly Bos taurus beef breeds and Holstein dairy cattle. Holsteins were more sound-sensitive (P = .02) and touch-sensitive (P < .01) than beef cattle. Sensitivity to sudden, intermittent stimuli (e.g., sound, motion, and touch) increased as temperament score (excitability) increased. Cattle with a temperament score of 1 were the least sensitive to sudden, intermittent movement and sound and those with a temperament score of 4 were the most sensitive (P < .01). This same relationship was sometimes observed for touch but was not statistically significant. Motion-sensitive cattle were more likely than nonsensitive cattle to score a temperament rating of 3 or 4 (P < .01). Steers and heifers were more motion-sensitive than the older bulls and cows (P = .03). Beef cattle urinated (P < .01, n = 1,581) and defecated (P < .01, n = 1,582) more often in the ring than did dairy cattle. Cattle that became agitated during handling in an auction ring were the individuals that were most likely to be startled by sudden, intermittent sounds and movements. Reactivity to sudden, intermittent stimuli may be an indicator of an excitable temperament.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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