Stroking different body regions of dairy cows: effects on avoidance and approach behavior toward humans - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Journal of Dairy Science Year : 2008

Stroking different body regions of dairy cows: effects on avoidance and approach behavior toward humans

Abstract

Understanding perception of dairy cows to common human contact such as stroking is important for improving the human-animal relationship, animal welfare, and production. We hypothesized that repeated stroking of body regions licked most during social grooming, especially the ventral neck, would reduce cows' avoidance of and increase their approach to humans. Sixty tethered dairy cows were randomly allocated to 4 treatment groups that received 5 min of daily human contact 5 d/wk during 3 consecutive weeks: 3 groups were stroked on different body regions. The first group was stroked on the ventral part of the neck (neck); the second group on the withers (both licked often in social grooming); the third group on the lateral side of the chest (chest, licked rarely); and the last group (control) was exposed to simple human presence. The reactions to the person who had provided the treatment were measured using 2 tests in the home tie-stall assessing avoidance from an approaching person who tried to touch the head (approaching person test) and avoidance/approach reactions to a stationary person (stationary person test). Approach behavior was recorded in a novel environment using a standard arena test. In the home tie-stall, cows stroked on the neck showed less avoidance (median avoidance score: 3.33) in the approaching person test compared with cows stroked on the chest and the controls (both: 4.00). That is, at least 75% of the animals stroked on the neck tolerated the touching of their heads (75th percentile <= 3.75), whereas at least 50% of the cows in the other treatment groups did not accept it. The stationary person test did not reveal any differences between the treatment groups. In the arena test, the 3 stroked groups showed more approach behavior (median latencies to contact: from 145 to 240 s) compared with simple human presence (300 s), but stroking treatments did not differ from each other. Stroking, particularly the neck, reduced avoidance of and increased approach reactions to humans in both the home tie-stall and the arena. Increasing acceptance of being touched after being stroked on the neck suggests that this procedure should be adopted to improve routine handling of dairy cattle.
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Dates and versions

hal-02667128 , version 1 (31-05-2020)

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Claudia Schmied, Xavier Boivin, Susanne Waiblinger. Stroking different body regions of dairy cows: effects on avoidance and approach behavior toward humans. Journal of Dairy Science, 2008, 91 (2), pp.596-605. ⟨10.3168/jds.2007-0360⟩. ⟨hal-02667128⟩
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