Cows can be pessimistic and it affects their ability to cope with stress: study

The study tested how calves that had previously been identified as fearful, sociable, pessimistic or optimistic reacted under stressful situations

Dairy cows can be optimistic or pessimistic from a young age and their inherent outlook can predict their ability to cope with stress, new research from the University of British Columbia says.

Benjamin Lecorps, a PhD student in the animal welfare program, said the study has implications for animal welfare and suggests some commonalities between the human and animal worlds.

“In humans, we know that personality traits can really affect how people cope with stress, cope with challenges or even (affect) their social lives and so on. We really wondered if it was applicable to animals as well,” Lecorps said.

The study, published last month in Scientific Reports, tested how calves that had previously been identified as fearful, sociable, pessimistic or optimistic reacted under stressful situations like being transported from one barn to another.

The stress tests came four months after their personality traits had been identified through testing when the animals were between 25 and 50 days old.

READ MORE: Dairy code raises expectations of cattle health and welfare

The more pessimistic calves were more vocal and had higher eye temperatures, which are signs of stress, he said.

Eye temperature increases when an animal feels threaten because the sympathetic nervous system is activated and increases blood flow to the eyes, Lecorps said.

While optimism has been studied as a major predictor of how well humans cope with stressors, with implications for their social lives and mental health, few studies have focused on pessimism and optimism in other species, he said.

Lecorps said personality traits have often been studied as an average across a species or herd, but it’s important to look at individuals when considering animal welfare because some calves will be more vulnerable to challenges than others.

The study could be used to help farmers determine which animals will be more resilient and to allow them to improve overall health on a dairy farm, he said.

“If we have animals that are more vulnerable to stress, it’s likely that they are going to be more likely to be sick later in life or to not cope at all with the challenging situations they are subjected to in routine dairy farming,” Lecorps said.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Baby, it’s nasty outside: wind and rain will continue across Vancouver Island

Police warn drivers and pedestrians to use precaution during expected rain and winds

Senior A Basketball: Ucluelet’s Basketball on the Edge tourney results

“Halfway through the tournament, we started becoming a team.”

Extreme Wave Advisory issued for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

Canadian Surf Team take on the Americas at Pan Am Games in Peru

270 athletes from 20 countries partake in Olympic 2020 qualifier.

VIDEO: Sea of Lights parade sparkles in Tofino

Tofino Resort and Marina’s Sea of Lights provided a breathtaking holiday experience on Friday night.

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

Omar Khadr ‘a model of compliance,’ wants changes to bail conditions: lawyer

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr is back in court today to seek changes to bail conditions.

B.C. businesses evacuated due to emailed bomb threat, also received in U.S.

Penticton and Comox Valley businesses evacuated Thursday morning

Police respond to alleged bear-spray threats in Vancouver Island park

A number of Comox dog owners have reported their off-leash dogs being threatened with bear spray

B.C. man linked to human remains probe gets absolute discharge on unrelated mischief count

Curtis Sagmoen was in Vernon Law Courts Dec. 13 for a mischief trial

Tilray names several former politicians to international advisory board

Many former politicians and political operatives have made a foray into the legal pot industry

Supreme Court upholds Canada’s right to reargue facts in assisted-dying case

Julia Lamb and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are spearheading a challenge of the law

B.C. company facing several charges in 2017 chicken abuse case

CFIA investigation leads to 38 charges against Elite Farm Services and Ontario-based Sofina Foods

Woman forcibly confined, sexually assaulted between Creston and Cranbrook

The suspect forced the woman into her vehicle before driving along Highway 3

Most Read