Cows and teenagers both get moo-dy, B.C. researchers say

First-of-its-kind study on dairy cattle could prove useful for farmers, researchers say

A UBC study released Feb. 12, 2020, has drawn parallels between dairy calves and human teenagers undergoing puberty. In this Aug. 31, 2016, file photo, a Holstein cow stands in a pasture at a dairyfarm near Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

It turns out the months – which can feel like years – of teenage angst isn’t just seen in the human household but also in the farm animal kingdom, according to a group of scientists at the University of B.C.

On Wednesday, researchers from the animal welfare program at UBC released findings from a long-term study which aimed to understand the development of personality traits over a dairy cow’s lifespan, which is roughly five years. Unsurprisingly, the study is the first of its kind into farm animal species behaviour.

The research, led by UBC professor Marina von Keyserlingk, involved observing how calves and cows reacted when placed in a new environment alongside a person they had never met before and a new object.

“Some calves and cows will immediately approach and investigate the object or human, or explore the new environment, while others will never touch the object or human and stand still for the duration of the test,” von Keyserlingk said in a news release. “We interpret the collection of these behaviours as reflecting two key personality traits: bold and exploratory.”

While calves between the age of three months and one year old won’t roll their eyes, make sassy remarks or slam their bedroom door shut, the study found a noticeable difference in a calf’s personality once they reach sexual maturity.

ALSO READ: Some cows are sadder than others, UBC study found

“This phenomenon is similar to that seen in humans, where teenagers often will express different personalities to that of when they were younger, and may again express different personalities when they grow up,” von Keyserlingk said.

“These changes in personality around puberty are also seen in squid, fish, junglefowl, and mammals like hamsters and mice.”

Researchers expect that a cow’s altered personality is linked to changing hormones. Dairy cattle are often mixed with new animals, or placed in new pens with new feeding equipment which also could play a role, the study suggests.

Researchers also found that calves that acted exploratory in the test situations generally ate more and gained more weight in order to produce more milk, compared to cows that reacted more fearfully of humans.

“These findings are important because they show that personality traits can be a useful indication of which animals will be most (or least) productive on the farm at different life stages,” said professor Marina von Keyserlingk, the study’s senior author, in a news release.

“Farmers could potentially identify calves and cows on the basis of personality who are likely to do well or poorly when faced with stressful farm-management practices.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Science

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

Castlegar and Trail Chevron offering free gas for front line workers

Health care, fire, police, paramedics included in offer

Grand Forks distillery shifts to make sanitizer

How a Grand Forks distillery is stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic

Trail arts council hopeful for show-filled season come fall

Cancelled events include Sunday Cinema, Silver City Days, and family shows

Man launches West Kootenay shuttle service for those in need

Business owner Mike Sherwood said he’s been getting ten call requests a day from people

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read