Short-term temperament tests in beef cattle relate to long-term measures o behavior recorded in the home pen

Jill Mackay, Simon P. Turner, Jimmy J. Hyslop, John Deag, Marie J. Haskell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Handling temperament tests for beef cattle have been related to production traits, with calmer temperaments having greater growth rates. In most tests of temperament or personality, observation of the animal takes place over a short period of time, sometimes completed in a matter of minutes. This study investigated whether behavior observed in a temperament test was reflective of the steer’s behavior in the home pen. Indoor-housed, crossbred, Bos taurus beef steers (n = 67) were fitted with triaxial activity monitors (IceTags; IceRobotics Ltd., South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland) and activity was recorded for 2 periods of 14 d each. Also, each steer was scored on 4 measures of temperament: 2 handling tests (flight speed and chute score) and 2 feeding behavior scores (aggression at feeders and ability to displace at feeders). Each temperament observation was repeated 4 times, with repeatability of the traits ranging from 0.23 (aggression) to 0.48 (flight speed). Activity measures derived from the accelerometer data, such as bout lengths, were found to be highly repeatable between the 2 periods of activity monitoring (repeatabilities of 0.67 and 0.70 for average lying bout duration and average standing bout duration, respectively). Steers with high flight speeds were also more active in the home pen (MotionIndex: rs = 0.35, P = 0.004; average step count: rs = 0.34, P = 0.005) than steers with low flight speeds. Steers that were more capable of displacing other steers at feeders had longer average standing bout durations (rs = 0.26, P = 0.036), which were more variable (standing time SD: rs = 0.27, P = 0.030), and lay down for less time (rs = –0.35, P = 0.004). No correlations were found between aggression at feeders or chute score and home pen behavior. Results of this study are the first to demonstrate that short-term temperament tests are related to longer-term behavior data in beef steers and these results should be taken into consideration for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4917-4924
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


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