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Journal Articles Animal Year : 2022

Association between breeding bulls’ reactivity to humans or handling and their daily behaviour and growth


In beef cattle, reactivity to humans or handling by humans is considered a safety issue for farmers and to impact on productivity. Several testing procedures, associated with potential risks for both humans and animals, have been developed, involving simple human approach, free animals individually handled, or restraint in handling facilities. We investigated how such tests may be related to each other and which dimensions they reveal. Of particular interest is the tolerance towards human approach or handling involving human or chute restraint, and whether they could be linked to the daily activity of animals and their growth, potentially enabling this activity to be used as a proxy for evaluating this reactivity to humans and handing. We observed 498 Limousin breeding bulls, of up to 14 months of age, at a bull testing station during standardised behavioural tests involving humans and handling: human approach at the feed barrier or out of the home pen during individual morphological evaluation, docility test where the experimenter attempts to maintain the bull in the corner of a test pen, and during restraint in a chute for weighing. Routinely collected on farm at approximately 8 months of age, bulls' reaction scores to human approach were also available. The animals wore MEDRIA collars with 3D-accelerometers that continually monitored their daily activities (ingestion, rumination, rest, etc.). Three 2-week periods spanning 4 months were analysed. We conducted a varimax-rotated principal component analysis (PCA) on behavioural tests: the first component (23.63% of the variability) summarised scores during restraint in the chute, and the second component (19.36% of the variability) summarised avoidance distance score at the feed barrier, score during morphological evaluation, and docility score. The daily activity of the bulls was consistent across the three 2-week periods that were analysed and was not related to the PCA dimensions (P > 0.1). Animals that could be approached at a closer distance reached a heavier weight at the age of 400 days (P < 0.001). In conclusion, within the limits of the test used, breeding bulls' reactivity to humans or handling comprised at least two dimensions: reactivity to human approach and reactivity to restraint (in the chute); which cannot be predicted from the animal's daily activity. A bull's acceptance of being approached by humans was positively related to its growth. (c) 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Dates and versions

hal-03786599 , version 1 (23-09-2022)





L.M. Bacher, V. Prieur, I. Veissier, X. Boivin. Association between breeding bulls’ reactivity to humans or handling and their daily behaviour and growth. Animal, 2022, 16 (7), pp.100568. ⟨10.1016/j.animal.2022.100568⟩. ⟨hal-03786599⟩
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