The handling of livestock on farms may affect the stress response of the animals. The relationship between humans and animals is closely related to certain animal welfare aspects. Over the last decades, the number of animals per stockperson has increased; because many farmers in Switzerland converted their dairy farms to beef suckler farms. Consequently, the available time of the farmer per animal has decreased. What’s more, suckler beef cattle is usually kept in loose-housing or extensive outdoor grazing systems with low management input and limited human contact. This promotes the expression of fear towards humans and makes especially the handling of the dams more difficult and dangerous. It is known that a lack of human contact in the early life of the new-born calves results in this behaviour. Furthermore, several routine husbandry practices like ear tagging, dehorning, castrating and medical treatments may trigger aversive responses by the animals. Thus, farmers often face a wild and sometimes unforeseeable behaviour of their animals which may lead to stress and injuries in both animals and humans. The habituation to human contact ("positive human handling") can increase tameness, reduce stress reactions ("fearfulness against humans") and result in easily manageable animals. Handling by humans particularly affects stress reduction in future life when it takes place during "sensitive" periods”.
Within this project we handled calves during four weeks after their birth. The results attested that positively handled calves showed less avoidance behaviour toward unfamiliar persons and less avoidance behaviour with their heads at the abattoir. These behavioural observations were underpinned by the results obtained from blood parameter analyses and by the meat quality.
For details see German version of this project entry.
Stiftung Graf Fabrice Gundlach & Payne-Smith-Stiftung
Stiftung Sur la Croix
Koordination, Durchführung, Publikation