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

Just Posted

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

West Shore man sentenced to four and a half years for sexually abusing foster daughter

Abuse took place over a three year period while daughter was between ages of 13 to 15

WorkSafeBC investigating death at Victoria Customs House construction site

Prevention officer will ensure all safety issues addressed before work starts again

PHOTOS: Gallery explores ‘broken promises’ during Japanese Canadian internment in 1940s

‘Broken Promises’ to acknowledge the thousands of Japanese Canadians who faced dispossession

Break and enters have doubled this year in Victoria

VicPD is warning residents to take precautions after huge increase from 2019

Nanaimo RCMP seize firearms, ID, portable debit machine as ‘prolific offender’ arrested

Austin Carlson-McPherson, 24, accused of crimes in Nanaimo, Duncan, Port Renfrew and Sooke

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

North Island MP accuses federal Liberals of ignoring veterans

NDP critic critical of Throne Speech priorities

Film about missing and murdered indigenous women makes Nanaimo debut

A mother and daughter search for answers in Sonia Bonspille Boileau’s ‘Rustic Oracle’

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Three years for serial bank robber who hit southern Vancouver Island branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Abbotsford, Sidney and Vancouver

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Most Read