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

Update: Washed out South Okanagan road temporarily closed for assessment

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to the Okanagan

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone Award Foundation charity weekend in Kelowna

Bulls take revenge at South Okanagan rodeo

Keremeos Elks Rodeo packs ‘em in for some high flying fun

Mainly sunny Victoria Day in Okanagan-Shuswap

The South Okanagan is the hottest spot to be in the province for Victoria Day

Princeton RCMP out in full force this weekend

Princeton RCMP are determined everyone will have a safe and lawful Victoria… Continue reading

VIDEO: It’s warming up across the Okanagan Valley

Grey skies are expected to fade and the sun looks like it’s here to stay

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Okanagan art gallery releases their theme

Fine arts painting will be the point of focus for this year’s event

South Okanagan search and rescue help injured climber

Search and rescue called on the assistance of a helicopter to help retrieve an injured hiker

Okanagan nature centre fundraiser goes western

Allan Brook’s Nature Centre Wine and Wild West Fundraiser is on July 6

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

North Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Firefighters respond to bus fire on Highway 1

Smoke in coach bus reported to have been caused by overheating, driver and passengers safe

Most Read