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

Horgan’s election call ‘nakedly opportunistic,’ political scientist says

Premier says campaign will ‘fully comply’ with public health directions

Canada West Golf Championships cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

UBC, UBC-O, UFV and UVic athletes will not hit the links this year, Kelowna was set to host

Dozens of Canadian venues to light up red in support of entertainment workers

Local facilities among dozens across Canada to participate in Light Up Live

PHOTOS: Inside Surrey’s new in-rink private school, which isn’t all about hockey

Glarea Elevated Learning school has opened at Excellent Ice

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Sept. 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Most Read