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Responsiveness Of Dairy Cows To Human Approach And Novel Stimuli

J. Gibbons, A. Lawrence, M. Haskell
Published 2009 · Psychology

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This study investigated intra-test and inter-test consistency of dairy cattle behavioural responses to a series of tests involving human approach and exposure to novelty. Thirtysix lactating Holstein–Friesian cows were each subjected to three human approach tests and three novel stimuli tests. Flight response score was assessed by an experimenter approaching cows when they were in the passageway of the home-pen (AP), lying down (AL) and at the feedface (FF). Each human approach test was repeated on each cow three times. The intra-animal repeatability estimates were 0.65, 0.40, 0.27 for AP, AL and FF tests, respectively. Repeatability evaluates an individual’s consistency across tests by comparing it to the variation within the group. Cows showed moderate consistency in their flight response scores to the different approach tests (W35 = 0.56, P < 0.01). Three novel stimuli (water spray, striped boards and flashing light) were individually presented once to each cow. Investigatory and reactivity behavioural responses were assessed. Cows showed the greatest reactivity response to the water spray compared to the striped boards (U1 = 56, P < 0.001) and flashing light (U1 = 66, P < 0.001). No statistically significant agreement existed between the novel stimuli reactivity and investigatory responses with the AP flight response scores. In conclusion, consistency over time was demonstrated over a relatively short period for the AP test and consistency between human approach situations was shown, however, consistency between human and novel situations was not found.
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