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Young Blond d'Aquitaine, Angus and Limousin bulls differ in emotional reactivity: relationships with animal traits, stress reactions at slaughter and post-mortem muscle metabolism

By C. Bourguet, V. Deiss, A. Boissy, E. M. C. Terlouw

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The present study investigated relationships between reactivity during tests, stress reactions at slaughter and animal traits in young Blond d'Aquitaine (BA), Limousin (LI) and Angus (AN) bulls. Behavioural and physiological reactivity of animals was evaluated during rearing using a "Human test" (exposure to human presence and handling) and an "Umbrella test (exposure to a sudden event, the opening of an umbrella). During both tests, bulls were also subjected to social isolation and novelty. Three weeks after the tests, bulls were slaughtered in an experimental abattoir and stress reactions were evaluated using ante-mortem behavioural and physiological measurements, and indicators of post-mortem muscle ( Longissimus dorsi: LD and Semitendinosus: ST) metabolism. Animal traits (morphological measures, basal cortisol level and testosterone level) were also recorded. BA reacted more strongly to the tests than AN, while LI had often intermediate levels. In the Human test, BA and LI spent more time vigilant than AN. In the Umbrella test, BA turned their head backwards more often, were further away from the umbrella and expressed more startle responses than AN. At slaughter, AN showed lower LD pH 3h and higher LD and ST pH 30h after bleeding. Regression analyses showed that up to 25.3 and 39.7% of the variability between individuals in early post-mortem ST and LD pH 40 min was explained by differences in heart rate minutes before slaughter, and stress reactions during the reactivity tests, respectively, at least partly removing breed effects. Ultimate pH was more strongly related to physical traits, specifically dressing percentage. Models are in accordance with existing knowledge on the biological relationships between these traits and post-mortem metabolism. Overall, results show that the breeds differed in stress reactions during reactivity tests and in post-mortem pH decline. A considerable part of the breed effects on early post-mortem pH decline was explained by certain stress reactions during the reactivity tests or immediately before slaughter (pH 40 min, pH 3h) and physical traits (pH 30h).

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 164
Pages 41-55
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
Language English
Author Address INRA UR1213 Herbivores, Centre de Clermont-Ferrand/Theix, Adaptation et Comportements Sociaux, F-63122 Saint-Genes-Champanelle,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animal physiology
  5. Animal reproduction
  6. Animals
  7. Animal slaughter
  8. Animal welfare
  9. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  10. Body
  11. Bovidae
  12. Breeds
  13. Bulls
  14. Cattle
  15. Cleaning
  16. Effect
  17. Emotions
  18. Evaluation
  19. Food quality
  20. Handling
  21. Head
  22. Heart
  23. Heart rate
  24. Hormones
  25. Hydrocortisone
  26. Indicators
  27. Mammals
  28. Meat.
  29. Meat production
  30. Metabolism
  31. models
  32. muscles
  33. Nutrition
  34. peer-reviewed
  35. ratings
  36. Ruminants
  37. slaughterhouses
  38. Storage and Transport Equipment
  39. testosterone
  40. traits
  41. ungulates
  42. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed