Article

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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    • "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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    • "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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    • "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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