Fear of people by cows and effects on milk yield, behavior, and heart rate at milking

Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lennoxville, QC, Canada.
Journal of Dairy Science (Impact Factor: 2.55). 05/1999; 82(4):720-7. DOI: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(99)75289-6
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To examine the ability of cows to recognize people and the effects of the fear of people by cows at milking, cows (n = 14) were handled by two people; one handled the cows gently, and the other handled them aversively. The handlers wore clothes of different color. After handling, the cows stood further from the aversive handler than from the gentle handler. When the handlers changed the color of their clothing, the cows did not discriminate between them. The gentle handler stood close to the cows for one milking, and the aversive handler stood close to the cows for another milking. For two control milkings, neither handler was present. Measurements included milking duration, milk yield, residual milk, heart rates, incidence of movement, and kicking behavior of the cows. Compared with control milkings, the presence of the gentle handler did not change milk yield or residual milk. The presence of the aversive handler increased residual milk by 70%. Kicking behavior of cows during milking was reduced with either handler present, and kicking during udder preparation was reduced with the aversive handler present. For cows that best discriminated between the handlers, the presence of the aversive handler increased movement and heart rate during milking. For cows that did not discriminate well between the handlers, the presence of either handler increased heart rate and decreased movement during milking. Cows recognized individual people, and the fear of people who are present during milking may reduce milk yield.

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Available from: Jeffrey Rushen, Sep 02, 2015
    • "Furthermore, heart rate and heart rate variability have been used as indicators of stress during milking of dairy cows (Gygax et al., 2008; Sutherland et al., 2012; Kovács et al., 2014). For example, Rushen et al. (1999) reported that the presence of an aversive handler increased heart rate during milking, and Van Reenen et al. (2002) found that high heart rate responses during milking in primiparous dairy cows were associated with enhanced inhibition of milk ejection. With regard to heart rate variability, different measures have been calculated to assess changes in sympathetic and vagal activation of the autonomic nervous system (von Borell et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The onset of lactation marks a significant turning point in a heifer's life, and prior experience with the milking routine could have positive effects on animal welfare and productivity. The objectives of this multifarm (n = 5) study were to investigate (1) whether prelactation training sessions affected behavior during milking, cardiac activity, human avoidance distance, and milk yield, and (2) whether these responses would be modified by the heifer's initial level of fear of humans. Trained heifers (TH, n = 30) experienced the routine in the milking parlor on at least 10 d prepartum, whereas untrained heifers (UH, n = 29) entered the parlor for the first time after calving. Behavior and cardiac activity were recorded on d 1 and 7 after calving, and an avoidance test was carried out on the day of integration into the dairy herd as well as on d 1, 7, and 28 postpartum. Each animal's initial level of fear of humans was classified as high or low based on the first human avoidance distance measured toward an unknown person. Results showed that TH showed less stepping and kicking during the udder preparation phase in the parlor and UH had higher probabilities to put their ears flat on the head, clamp their tail between the hind legs, and have their eyes wide open throughout the different phases in the milking parlor. Heart rate decreased from d 1 to 7, increased from before to during and to after milking and was slightly elevated in TH compared with UH. Milk yield did not differ between TH and UH. Human avoidance distance was not influenced by training, but distance decreased in heifers with a high initial level of fear of humans across repetitions of the test, whereas heifers with a low initial level of fear of humans had generally short avoidance distances. However, initial level of fear of humans neither determined behavior and heart rate during milking nor milk yield of TH and UH. The results indicate that the training regimen applied in the present study habituated heifers, to some extent, to the milking routine. Copyright © 2015 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Dairy Science 06/2015; 98(8). DOI:10.3168/jds.2014-8773 · 2.55 Impact Factor
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    • "The few vocalisation occurrences observed in our study were also reported for dairy cows: Rushen et al. (1999b) rarely recorded vocalisations when cows were milked in presence of aversive or gentle handlers, whereas Rushen et al. (2001) recorded a reduced number of vocalisations in animals milked in their home stall or in an isolation chamber. "
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    ABSTRACT: The effect of pre-partum habituation on buffalo heifers’ behaviour in the milking parlour.•The effect of pre-partum habituation on lactation performance of buffalo heifers.•Pre-partum habituated buffaloes performed fewer steps and kicks during milking.•Pre-partum habituation did not significantly affect milk flow variables or milk quality.•Pre-partum habituation can reduce restlessness in buffalo heifers during milking.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 10/2014; 161. DOI:10.1016/j.applanim.2014.10.003 · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Animals' perception of humans is strongly influenced by previous experiences with humans (Hemsworth et al., 1998; Rushen et al., 1999a) based on stockperson attitudes and behaviors (Hemsworth & Boivin, 2011). Animals' perception of humans can be positive or negative and is often the result of an associated learning process. "
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    ABSTRACT: Between-farm variation in animal reactions to humans can reflect different management styles and behavioral tendencies among farmers. Animals are well-known to discriminate among humans, but less clear is the key issue of whether they more or less easily generalize their experience from specific humans to others depending on management style. Here, we chose two contrasted management styles by known handlers: "gentle" management, i.e. long-lasting exposure to positive human interactions (with limited negative interactions), and "aversive" management including long-lasting exposure to various negative human interactions (with only food delivery considered a positive interaction) and aversive events. Over a period of 19 wk, 15 female lambs were exposed to the gentle management treatment ("gently-treated" group) while another 15 lambs ("aversively-treated" group) were exposed to the aversive management treatment. To facilitate discrimination by animals, experimenters wore white clothes for aversive events and green clothes for farming handling (positive handling and feeding for the gently-treated group and only feeding for the aversively-treated group). Sheep perception of the human was assessed after the management period by submitting lambs from each group to two standardized tests: i) the presence of a stationary human (familiar human in white vs. familiar human in green vs. unknown human) and ii) the presence of a moving human (familiar human in white vs. familiar human in green vs. unknown human). As expected, during the stationary human test, aversively-treated lambs spent less time in the human zone (P < 0.0001), showed greater latency to approach the human (P = 0.05) and had fewer contacts with the human (P = 0.05) than gently-treated lambs. During the moving human test, aversively-treated lambs also showed a greater escape distance from humans than gently-treated lambs (P < 0.0001). Aversively-treated lambs showed the same fear responses towards familiar and unknown humans and tended to generalize their aversive experiences with one handler to all humans. In contrast, gently-treated lambs seemed to discriminate familiar humans from unfamiliar humans. Different management styles could modulate farm generalization to humans in farm animals.
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