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Interpretive Summary: Cattle acclimate more substantially to repeated handling when confined individually in a pen than when assessed as a group

By: Jamie T. Parham, Amy E. Tanner, Sarah R. Blevins, Mark L. Wahlberg, and Ronald M. Lewis

Chute and exit scores are common subjective methods used to evaluate temperament in cattle production systems. A pen test, which allows behavior to be observed in a non-restrained setting, may also be an effective method to evaluate temperament by allowing more variation among animals to be expressed. However, the merit of pen scores in assisting producers in evaluating temperament has yet to be discerned. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to validate the usefulness of pen scores in delineating temperamental cattle and to determine whether these behavioral scores change under repeated and routine management. Pen scores collected on heifers either individually or as a group could be assigned reliably and were indicative of an animal’s response to stress during normal handling practices. Temperamental heifers, when handled more frequently, acclimated to repeated handling in an individual pen setting but not in a group. Therefore, regardless of method, when cattle are excitable during their first handling experience, more than one observation of temperament may be beneficial before assessing temperament.

Read the full article on the Journal of Animal Science.