Read coloration is related to Holstein cow temperament

S. Rose, T. Grandin, and W.R. Wailes
Dept. of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA

Journal Animal Science. (2002) Vol. 80:369. (Abstract)(Supl. 1)

Studies with mice indicate that animals with a yellow coat color are more prone to stress when subjected to the same stress as animals with a wild-type coat color. Mice with a yellow coat color experienced greater weight loss, higher levels of corticosterone, and an increase in norepinephrine turnover when restrained in a tube for thirty minutes. In this study, temperament and the amount of dark pigmentation on the head was evaluated in Holstein cows (n = 219). All animals were restrained in a fenceline headlock system for scoring. While standing about one meter from the stanchion, the experimenter stood sideways towards the front of the cow. The experimenter leaned towards the animal's head while maintaining position, then observed and recorded the temperament score. The criteria was 1) Extends head forward (f = 20), 2) No reaction (f = 16), 3) Pulled away, did not pull against headlock (f = 107), and 4) Pulled against headlock when a person moved towards the animal (f = 76). After animals were scored for temperament, pigmentation scores were given based on the amount of black and white hair covering their head. Pigmentation scores were 1) >95% black (f = 11), 2) >50-95%,black (f = 134), 3) 50:50 black:white (f = 34), 4) >50-95% white (f = 35), and 5) >95% white (f = 5). SEM temperament scores relating to head color scores were 1) >95% black (2.64 0.08), 2) >50-95% black (3.04 0.06), 3) 50:50 black:white (3.06 0.06), 4) >50-95% white (3.34 0.06), and 5) >95% white (3.80 0.03). Cows with more white head color were more likely to pull back against the stanchion than cows with more black head color (Pearson correlation, r2 = 0.03, P < 0.01). Visual assessment of color may help predict a Holstein dairy cow's temperament in order to identify those animals that have a tendency to be more flighty and may require gentler handling.

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