Predicting maternal behaviour of beef cattle using temperament tests
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Certain temperament traits that exist may be accurate predictors of the behaviour animals will exhibit towards stockpersons and their offspring after parturition. A total of 184 beef cattle in year 1 and 169 in year 2 (99 of these were also tested in year 1) were run through a chute complex and individually restrained before calving to see if their response predicted their behaviour after calving. Pre-calving measurements included exertion force applied against the headgate, a subjective temperament score, the response to a stockperson standing in front of the headgate and the exit speed from the chute. Within 2 d after calving, the cow’s response to her calf, stockpersons and a predator model were recorded during standardized testing. A blood sample from each calf was collected to measure total serum protein and the calf’s adjusted 205 d weaning weight was recorded in year 1. A principal component analysis was used to reduce the number of variables. The components were then used to generate multiple regression trees. The results of this study indicated that many measures of maternal behaviour were not related to the temperament of the animal. The amount of time the cow spends greater than 3m from the calf when it is being handled was somewhat related to temperament; however, this variable may indicate fearfulness of people rather than maternal behaviour. It appears that a cow’s temperament is, in general, a poor predictor of maternal behaviour. A producer survey was also conducted on 168 cattle producers at 3 Saskatchewan cattle events. The cumulative number of cows owned by the respondents was 33,621, 5.7% of which were reported to be dangerous (cows the producer judged would hurt them after calving if given the chance). The majority of farms (76.2%) had at least one dangerous cow. Mis-mothering (i.e. the cow abandoned or did not care for her calf) had an incidence of 1.4% of cows, and occurred on 56.3% farms. Producers are more tolerant of aggressive cows and are less likely to cull them than cows which abandon or mis-mother their calves.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentLarge Animal Clinical Sciences
ProgramLarge Animal Clinical Sciences
CommitteeJelinski, Murray; Gonyou, Harold; Campbell, John
Copyright DateJanuary 2011