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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greedy family’s maid overcomes them all in Surrey Little Theatre’s latest play

‘The Late Christopher Bean’ is staged at Clayton-area theatre for a month starting Jan. 23

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99 in South Surrey

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Two-vehicle crash leads to argument in South Surrey

Police investigating after one driver left the scene

Final Four set at Surrey RCMP Classic, where a new champ will be crowned

Guildford Park beats Semiahmoo, ending Totems’ three-year championship run

City of Surrey spends $1.2M on winter maintenance – so far

Total budget of $3.7M; 7,000 tonnes of salt used

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Should winter tires be mandatory in the Lower Mainland?

ICBC dial-a-claims go up as winter storm takes toll

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Abbotsford bank ATM robbery thwarted by woman standing her ground

Police arrest alleged known robber running down South Fraser wearing balaclava

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Dad of missing Abbotsford woman charged after allegedly exposing himself in park

Barry Shpeley charged with sexual assault and assault

Most Read