Researchers at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Switzerland have shown that gentle touching and other early contact with beef calves will result in greater ease of handling and higher meat quality.
A research team lead by Johanna Probst examined the difference between calves that have daily contact with humans who talk softly and handle them gently, and those that have more limited human contact. The calves that had greater human contact were found to be more willing to allow humans to approach them, required less and were overall more docile. “It is logical to start [human contact] when the animals are young," says Probst. "In particular, it is easier for the farmers to deal with them."
Not only were the animals easier to handle, animals that were gently handled produced a higher quality of meat. Meat from such animals were shown to have lower levels of hormones related to stress, in particular cortisol compared with animals with less human contact. Beef from animals that were gently handled as calves was also significantly more tender.
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- Johanna K. Probst, Anet Spengler Neff, Florian Leiber, Michael Kreuzer, Edna Hillmann: Gentle touching in early life reduces avoidance distance and slaughter stress in beef cattle Original Research Article. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 10 April 2012
- Johanna Probst, FiBL, Frick
- organicprints.org: FiBL publications on calf handling