Sociable Calves May be Less Prone to Stressful Trailer Rides

Research shows more outgoing animals have a greater tolerance to stressful situations. ( Farm Journal )

How we interact with others can explain a lot about our personalities. The same goes for dairy calves whose distinct personality traits are typically carried with them throughout their life.

A recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that more sociable calves are less prone to stressful situations, such as trailer transportation.

Knowledge about individual personalities may enable producers to better understand why some animals fail to cope under standard management practices, like trailer rides, and are more likely to become ill, according to UBC News.

The study examined how weaned, timid calves reacted to trailer transportation compared to calves with outgoing and sociable personalities. Taking two 10-minute trips, calves were loaded onto trailers and observed for elevated vocalization rates and eye temperatures.

Animals who are experiencing stress often show higher vocalization rates and increased eye temperatures.The temperature of a calf’s eyes may rise when they feel threatened. This is due to the sympathetic nervous system being activated, causing an increase in blood flow to the eyes.

The study concluded that timid calves experienced heightened stress levels and had a more compromised immune system compared to animals who were considered more sociable animals.

According to researchers (Lecorps et al., 2018), these results suggest that pessimistic calves react more intensely to the emotional challenge of a trailer ride. This may be because they had worse expectations of the situation than other calves.

To make stressful conditions more bearable for these animals, try to characterize calf personalities at around three weeks of age. This may help identify animals that are most likely to make this transition smoothly and to identify calves that would benefit from additional assistance.

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