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Temperament in beef cattle : methods of measurement, consistency and relationship to production



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Two behavioural studies were conducted at the University of Saskatchewan beef feedlot. In the first study, the temperament of 400 steers was determined using both objective and subjective measures. The consistency of temperament, over repeated tests and between different measures, was also tested. The objective behavioural tests were conducted during the individual restraint of the steers using strain gauges and an MMD (movement-measuring-device). The time required for the steers to exit the area was also recorded. Subjective assessment of animals’ responsiveness during restraint was recorded on a scale of 1-5 (calm to wild). The consistency of individual differences in a steer’s response within the evaluation series and across repetitions, shows that this trait may represent a stable ‘personality’ of the animal. The significant relationship between objective and subjective measures demonstrates that objective measures of temperament can be used to replace the traditional subjective scale as it has the added advantage of reducing inter- and intra-observer variability. The positive relationship of subjective scores and MMD values with the steers performance (average daily weight gain) shows not only that a calm temperament is conducive to productivity, but also that objective measures can replace subjective techniques for assessing temperament for performance evaluation. In the second study the reactivity of a subset of the original 400 steers (262 animals from 8 pens) to a novel stimulus was assessed. The purpose of this experiment was to determine if a steers’ behavioural response in the novel test was correlated to its’ temperament assessment determined in the first study. A remote controlled ball was dropped from the ceiling of a salt feeder while a steer licked the salt. Two overhead cameras connected to a monitor through a VCR and time lapse recorder permitted us to observe and document the response. A lack of correlation between measures of handling and novelty measures show that reactivity of animals in the handling chute and their responsiveness to the novel stimulus do not represent one and the same trait.



movement measuring device, strain gauge, exit time, temperament, beef cattle



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Large Animal Clinical Sciences


Large Animal Clinical Sciences


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