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Responsiveness of dairy cows to human approach and novel stimuli

By J. Gibbons, A. Lawrence, M. Haskell

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This study investigated intra-test and inter-test consistency of dairy cattle behavioural responses to a series of tests involving human approach and exposure to novelty. Thirty-six lactating Holstein-Friesian cows were each subjected to three human approach tests and three novel stimuli tests. Flight response score was assessed by an experimenter approaching cows when they were in the passageway of the home-pen (AP), lying down (AL) and at the feedface (FF). Each human approach test was repeated on each cow three times. The intra-animal repeatability estimates were 0.65, 0.40, 0.27 for AP, AL and FF tests, respectively. Repeatability evaluates an individual's consistency across tests by comparing it to the variation within the group. Cows showed moderate consistency in their flight response scores to the different approach tests (W35=0.56, P<0.01). Three novel stimuli (water spray, striped boards and flashing light) were individually presented once to each cow. Investigatory and reactivity behavioural responses were assessed. Cows showed the greatest reactivity response to the water spray compared to the striped boards (U1=56, P<0.001) and flashing light (U1=66, P<0.001). No statistically significant agreement existed between the novel stimuli reactivity and investigatory responses with the AP flight response scores. In conclusion, consistency over time was demonstrated over a relatively short period for the AP test and consistency between human approach situations was shown, however, consistency between human and novel situations was not found.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 116
Issue 2/4
Pages 163-173
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.08.009
Language English
Author Address Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Sustainable Livestock Systems, SAC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  4. Cattle
  5. Dairy animals
  6. Dog Breeds
  7. Flight
  8. Mammals
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. repeatability
  11. Ruminants
  12. variation
  1. peer-reviewed