Department of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins 80523-1171
Key Words: Beef Cattle, Temperament, Weight Gain, Breeds, Gender Differences
1 Supported by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Englewood,
CO 80155. The authors acknowledge Deseret Cattle and Citrus Company in
St. Cloud, Florida for their cooperation and assistance.
2 To whom correspondence should be addressed.
3 Current address: Gerber Agric., Inc., 650 S. Cherry St., Suite 600, Denver, CO 80222.
Few experiments have attempted to identify links between temperament and various measures of productivity. One study reported that cows with calm temperaments had a 25 to 30% increase in milk production (Drugociu et al., 1977). Observations tend to show that more excitable cattle with higher temperament scores have lower live weights and (v) weight gains (Tulloh, 1961; Fordyce and Goddard, 1984), though few data have been presented. The present study was conducted to identify the relationship between temperament and productivity as measured by daily weight gain.
Cattle. Four hundred thirty-six cattle (7 to 11 months old), 292 steers and 144 heifers, were transported to feedlot facilities near Fort Collins, Colorado, for finishing. Breeds studied included:
Braford, Red Brangus, and Simbrah cattle will be referred to as Bos indicus-cross; Simmental x Red Angus, Angus, and Tarentaise x Angus cattle will be referred to as Bos taurus.
All cattle were received at the feedlot from October through December 1994 and acclimated to feedlot conditions for 2 to 3 wk before the start of the trial. The B. indicus-cross cattle were obtained from Florida, Simmental x Red Angus were obtained from Nebraska, and Angus and Tarentaise x Angus cattle were obtained from Wyoming. All cattle, regardless of origin, were produced on extensive operations with minimal human interaction. While in the feedlot, cattle were housed in groups of approximately 20 to 50 cattle, with group allotments determined by ranch and thus breed, gender, and weight. Cattle were fed to acquire a constant subcutaneous fat thickness of 9 to 13 mm (target = 11 mm) over the 12th rib, as determined by visual indices and ultrasound measurements.
All cattle received a diet consisting primarily of whole corn and corn silage. For the complete diet, see O'Connor et al. (1997). Growth implants were administered at the start of the finishing period and after approximately 120 days on feed. Implant protocols were as follows: steers were given an initial implant of Synovex-S (Syntex Animal Health, St. Louis, MO, 1994) and a second implant of Revalor-S (Hoechst Roussel Agri-Vet, Somerville, NJ); heifers received Finaplix-H (Hoechst Roussel Agri-Vet) for the initial and the second implants. Each heifer received .4 mg/d of melengestrol acetate ( MGA) for the entire feeding period.
Experimental Procedure. Approximately every 28 days, weight gain assessment and ultrasound determination of subcutaneous fat thickness data were recorded for all cattle. During processing, two independent observers assessed the temperament of each animal. A single temperament rating was recorded for each animal by each observer. The number of cattle prohibited temperament observations for all cattle from being completed on a single day. Observer 1 scored cattle after they had four to eight previous experiences with the handling facility at the feed yards. Observer 2 scored cattle during the animals first encounter with the handling facilities. Observers temperament scored the same cattle using slightly different methods. Observer 1 rated 436 B. indicus-cross and B. taurus cattle via a temperament rating system similar to that used in Grandin (1993), assigning scores of 1 through 5. Each animal's temperament was assessed while the animal was in a nonrestraining single-animal scale crate. Observer 2 rated 304 B. indicus-cross cattle in a hydraulic squeeze chute (crush) with a head stanchion. Observer 2 assigned scores of 1 through 4 designating behaviors similar to those denoted by the following five-point system:
Restraint of animals in a hydraulic squeeze chute reduces the range of movement and therefore reduces the resolution of discrimination between categories on a rating scale; thus a four-point scale was used. No inter observer comparison can be made because of the differences in animal movement between the squeeze chute and scale and because of numerical differences in temperament rating scale. Due to these differences in method, the data sets have been analyzed separately and presented as two independent experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 will refer to data collected by observers 1 and 2, respectively.
Statistical Analysis. Data were analyzed using the SAS GLM procedure (SAS, 1985). Average daily gain was analyzed with a model that included breed, gender (where appropriate), temperament, sire (breed) (as a random effect), and fat thickness. Temperament was analyzed using a model that included breed, gender (where appropriate), sire (breed), and fat thickness.
Pair wise comparisons were conducted between the means of each level of temperament score, breed, and gender.
|Breedb||n||On-test wt, kg||Off-test wt, kg||Days on feed||Avg daily gain,c kg/d|
|Braford||177||290||468||201||.95 - .03|
|Red Brangus||70||308||507||206||.98 - .04|
|Simbrah||65||320||552||212||1.10 - .04|
|Angus||18||305||543||194||1.24 - .06|
|Simmental/Red Angus||92||264||569||213||1.44 - .02|
|Tarentaise/Angus||14||301||550||207||1.21 - .09|
a Data listed are for all animals temperament scored by Observer 1.
b traits are adjusted to a constant fat thickness of 11 mm using analysis of covariance techniques. The model included breed, gender, (Brahman-cross only), sire(breed), and fat thickness.
c Values are means SE. The error term for analysis of breed differences = sire (breed) (dfsOs indicus-cross = 73, dfsOS [aurus = 64).
|Breeda||Mean temperature rankingb,c|
|Braford||3.62 - .15d|
|Red Brangus||3.78 - .22d|
|Bos indicus-croas||3.46 - .09g|
|Angus||1.70 - .19f|
|Simmental x Red Angus||1.77 - .07f|
|Tarentaise x Angus||2.36 - .31e|
|Bos taurus||1.80 - .10g|
a Model included breed, sire (breed), and fat thickness. The error
term for analysis of breed differences = sire (breed) (dfBos indicus-cross
individual breeds = 75; dfBos taurus individual breeds = 51
dfall-breed means = 123).
b l = calm, no movement; 2 = restless shifting; 3 = squirming occasional shaking of restraint device; 4 = continuous vigorous movement and shaking of restraint device; 5 = rearing, twisting or violently struggling.
c Values are means - SE.
d,e,f Means with different superscripts differ (P < .05).
g "Means differ (P < .001).
Even though breed group differences were statistically significant, they may not represent true breed based differences in temperament due to confounding by geographic origin. As was discussed in the Materials and Methods section, all B. indicus-cross breeds were obtained from a single location, Angus and Tarentaise x Angus cattle were obtained from a second location, and Simmental x Red Angus cattle were obtained from a third location.
Experiment 2. No difference (P < .4) in temperament existed amongany of the B. indicus breeds observed in the squeeze chute. Braford cattle had an average temperament score of 2.0 - .12, Red Brangus cattle had a score of 2.18 - .17, and Simbrah cattle had a score of 2.11 - .14, on the 1 to 4 rating system. No B. taurus cattle were included in this experiment (data not shown).
|Bos taurusc||Bos indicus-crossd|
|Temperament rankinga,b||n||Avg daily gain,e kg/d||n||Avg daily gain,e kg/d|
|1||37||1.38 - .05f||4||.75 - .12h|
|2||70||1.29 - .04g||40||1.07 - .04f|
|3||17||1.19 - .06g||94||1.02 - .03fg|
|4||0||---||113||1.01 - .03fg|
|5||0||---||61||.97 - .04gh|
Experiment 2. Observer 2 temperament ranked 304 B. indicus-cross cattle on the fourpoint system described previously (Table 4). Temperament score was a significant source of variation in average daily gain. Animals with temperament scores of 1 or 2 had higher (P < .05) average daily gains than animals with temperament scores of 3.
|Temperament rankinga||n||Avg daily gain,b kg/d|
|1||89||1.04 - .03c|
|2||119||1.05 - .03c|
|3||76||.95 - .03d|
|4||20||.94 - .06cd|
The use of two observers and different experimental methods attests to the robustness of our results and the strength of the temperament effect on weight gain. Due to the lack of body restraint in the scale there was an increased ability for animal movement. As a result, observer 1 assigned more scores of 4 (25.9%) or 5 (14.0%) than observer 2 assigned scores of 4 (6.6%). Despite those differences, the results derived from the study remain consistent. We conclude from these results that the driving force behind average daily gain differences was primarily a product of calm temperaments, as opposed to excitable temperaments. Stated another way, calm cattle had increased average daily gains rather than excitable cattle having decreased average daily gains. More research, however, is necessary to confidently establish this.
|Mean temperament rankingb|
|Gendera||Experiment 1||Experiment 2|
|Heifers||3.72 - .11c||2.23 - .10d|
|Steers||3.39 - .11c||1.97 - .10d|
Similar gender differences in temperament have been found in British and European Continental (exotic) cattle (Stricklin et al., 1980). Other research, which focused on B. taurus breeds, found similar trends, but no significant differences in temperament due to gender were detected (Tulloh, 1961; Shrode and Hammack, 1971). We hypothesize that gender differences may be evident only in certain breeds. For example, due to calmer temperaments among B. taurus breeds, gender differences may not be as pronounced as the gender differences in B. indicus or B. indicus-cross breeds (Eld er et al., 1980; Fordyce et al., 1988).
Studies with rodents, which typically exhibit fear or anxiety (typically considered to be synonymous), have shown common, though inconsistent, gender differences in behavior (Gray, 1987; Johnston and File, 1991). Studies of fear may contribute to our knowledge of temperament by considering that fear, as a physiological state of the nervous system, ultimately results in certain behaviors (Gray, 1987). Additionally, Boissy (1995) defined fearfulness as a trait that determines the extent to which an individual becomes frightened in alarming situations.
The evolutionary and(or) adaptive mechanisms underlying gender differences in temperament are not fully understood. Practical experience on ranches has shown that heifers are more temperamental than cows. The fact that this calming of their disposition occurs just after parturition is verified by rodent experiments. Just after parturition and during lactation, rats exhibit a decrease in emotional reactivity or fearfulness (Hard and Hansen, 1985). Nulliparous rats were more fearful than parturient females in a variety of tests, including those that measured emergence latencies from a box into an open field test arena and the inclination to flee from an intruder (Fleming and Luebke, 1981). Reduced fearfulness of parturient female rats is most likely hormonally mediated (Fleming and Luebke, 1981).
In addition to genetically based differences in temperament, the possibility also exists for temperament to be influenced by growth-promotant implant protocols, which are completely confounded by gender; however, we found no research to support or refute this possibility in heifers. Two studies using steers and bulls have been conducted to examine behavioral effects of zeranol implants. Neither study showed a significant effect of implantation on agitation scores (Vanderwert et al., 1985; Baker and Gonyou, 1986).
Experience also affects reactions to handling and restraint. Crookshank et al. (1979) showed that agitation and cortisol levels in cattle were decreased over multiple handling experiences. Gentling of animals is at least somewhat successful at reducing aversion to restraint and handling, although not enough to overcome the effects of highly aversive procedures (Hargreaves and Hutson, 1990). European Continental cattle that were worked through a squeeze chute repeatedly in a single day became increasingly agitated (Grandin, 1993). Calm Angus bulls, however, did not become agitated with additional passes through working facilities (B. D. Voisinet, unpublished data). Other research, however, has shown that if given the opportunity to avoid highly aversive handling procedures, such as electro-immobilization, sheep will do so consistently over many trials (Grandin et al., 1986). Differences in the results between studies is likely due to differing levels of fear and how the animal perceives the aversiveness of a procedure. Animals are able to discriminate between different kinds of human interaction, aversive or nonaversive (Gonyou et al., 1986) and also between different areas of a restraint system where highly averse events occurred (Rusher, 1986). The levels of aversion expressed by an individual animal, however, are relatively persistent across multiple handling experiences (Fordyce and Goddard, 1984; Lyons, 1989; Grandin, 1993). Because of this and regardless of whether agitation in response to a particular handling event increases or decreases over time, one should expect agitation levels or temperament for an individual animal to remain relatively consistent with respect to its contemporaries. Heritability estimates of cattle temperament show that it is a moderately heritable trait (Shrode and Hammack, 1971; Stricklin et al., 1980; Fordyce et al., 1988).
Even though an economic analysis has not been completed at this time, the benefits of selecting for calmer or more docile animals may be more than enhanced animals and handler safety and decreased facility wear. Another advantage of selecting cattle with calmer temperaments would be increased welfare because injuries to the animal would be reduced.
Research is needed to determine the physiological mechanisms underlying the effect of temperament on average daily gain.
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