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Identification and development of measures suitable as potential breeding traits regarding dairy cows' reactivity towards humans

By A. Ebinghaus, S. Ivemeyer, J. Rupp, U. Knierim

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Behavioural indicators of the human-animal relationship (HAR) are predominantly used in animal welfare science. However, the reactivity of dairy cows - as part of the HAR - is also of interest in the context of dairy breeding, due to its estimated moderate heritability. The avoidance distance (AD) towards an unfamiliar experimenter in a standardized test is regarded an established behavioural indicator of the HAR, but for breeding purposes more feasible measures would be advantageous. The aim of the present pilot study was to identify and develop potential measures of the cow's reactivity towards humans, which are promising as breeding traits with regard to feasibility, reliability and criterion validity. On three German dairy farms with loose housing and herd sizes of 45-195 cows of the Holstein-Friesian and German Black Pied Cattle breed, AD at the feeding place and AD in the barn as well as four alternative HAR measures were recorded and tested for inter-observer reliability (IOR) and inter-test associations for the assessment of criterion validity. Alternative measures were (1) tolerance to standardised tactile interaction (TTI), (2) release behaviour after restraint (RB), (3) qualitative behaviour assessment (QBA) of the cow during the TTI and RB test, and (4) facial hair whorl position and form (HW). TTI, RB and QBA were additionally tested for intra-observer reliability using video recordings of 31 cows. IOR was assessed based on Spearman rank or Kendall W correlation coefficients (in case of QBA with three observers) for metric and ordinal data and based on PABAK coefficients in case of nominal data (HW). Intra-observer reliability was assessed based on Spearman rank correlation coefficients. Inter-test associations between AD at the feeding place and HW were analysed using a General Linear Model and between all other measures using Spearman rank correlation. IOR was good to very good for all measures: AD feeding place rs=0.79 (n=84, p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 185
Pages 30-38
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2016.09.010
Language English
Author Address Farm Animal Behaviour and Husbandry Section, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of Kassel, Nordbahnhofstr. 1a, 37213 Witzenhausen,
  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal genetics
  4. Animal housing
  5. Animal nutrition
  6. Animals
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Automation
  9. Behavioral research
  10. Bovidae
  11. Breeding
  12. Breeds
  13. Cattle
  14. Cleaning
  15. Dairy animals
  16. Face
  17. Feasibility
  18. Feeding
  19. Hair
  20. Handling
  21. Heritability
  22. Humans
  23. Indicators
  24. Loose housing
  25. Mammals
  26. Meat animals
  27. Men
  28. Nutrition
  29. Primates
  30. ratings
  31. recording
  32. restraint
  33. Ruminants
  34. Storage and Transport Equipment
  35. tolerance
  36. traits
  37. ungulates
  38. vertebrates
  39. Veterinary sciences
  40. video recordings
  41. welfare