Cows can be pessimistic and it affects their ability to cope with stress: study

The study tested how calves that had previously been identified as fearful, sociable, pessimistic or optimistic reacted under stressful situations

Dairy cows can be optimistic or pessimistic from a young age and their inherent outlook can predict their ability to cope with stress, new research from the University of British Columbia says.

Benjamin Lecorps, a PhD student in the animal welfare program, said the study has implications for animal welfare and suggests some commonalities between the human and animal worlds.

“In humans, we know that personality traits can really affect how people cope with stress, cope with challenges or even (affect) their social lives and so on. We really wondered if it was applicable to animals as well,” Lecorps said.

The study, published last month in Scientific Reports, tested how calves that had previously been identified as fearful, sociable, pessimistic or optimistic reacted under stressful situations like being transported from one barn to another.

The stress tests came four months after their personality traits had been identified through testing when the animals were between 25 and 50 days old.

READ MORE: Dairy code raises expectations of cattle health and welfare

The more pessimistic calves were more vocal and had higher eye temperatures, which are signs of stress, he said.

Eye temperature increases when an animal feels threaten because the sympathetic nervous system is activated and increases blood flow to the eyes, Lecorps said.

While optimism has been studied as a major predictor of how well humans cope with stressors, with implications for their social lives and mental health, few studies have focused on pessimism and optimism in other species, he said.

Lecorps said personality traits have often been studied as an average across a species or herd, but it’s important to look at individuals when considering animal welfare because some calves will be more vulnerable to challenges than others.

The study could be used to help farmers determine which animals will be more resilient and to allow them to improve overall health on a dairy farm, he said.

“If we have animals that are more vulnerable to stress, it’s likely that they are going to be more likely to be sick later in life or to not cope at all with the challenging situations they are subjected to in routine dairy farming,” Lecorps said.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Eckville Town Council wraps up 2018

The last regular meeting of 2018 was on Dec. 17

Eckville Sr. Eagles suffer loss to Morinville

Donations for Santas Anonymous and the Food Bank were collected at the Dec. 16 game

PHOTOS: Grade 2’s spread holiday cheer at the Eckville Manor House

The class joined the residents on Dec. 14 for games, song and gift giving.

UPDATED: Calgary Police receive multiple bomb threats

Similar threats received across Canada and the United States

Eckville Food Bank in “good shape” for the holidays

Heather Allen, FCSS director, says the food bank is in need of everyday items like soup crackers

‘Are we going to play?’ Alberta boy with rare illness no big deal for classmates

Porter Stanley is one of 30 people in the world to be diagnosed with Beare-Stevenson syndrome, a craniofacial disorder.

The prize was wrong: Man turns down trip to Manitoba

A New Hampshire man won the prize on “The Price is Right”, but turned it down because the taxes were too high

B.C. securities regulator probes ‘most expansive’ alleged trading scheme in its history

Liht Cannabis Corp states it’s doing internal investigation, welcomes BC Securities Commission probe

Air passenger rights: 6 things about what the Liberals are offering

For 3- to 6-hour delays, compensation is $400. Between 6 and 9 hours, $700. Over 9 hours is $1,000

Missouri poacher ordered to repeatedly watch ‘Bambi’

Sentence comes from one of the largest deer poaching cases in state history

Energy assessment law needed to avoid another Trans Mountain impasse, PM says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s overhauling the program

Freeland says corners could not be cut with U.S. arrest request of Huawei exec

2 Canadians have been detained in Beijing since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies, by the RCMP

Maskwacis RCMP hoping to find vehicle in fatal hit and run

Black Jeep Grand Cherokee believed to be involved in early morning incident

Alberta’s oil refinery request prompts renewed interest in Kitimat plan

Publisher David Black pitches Rachel Notley on B.C. coast option

Most Read