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Does hanging out with their friends make cattle happier?
August 4, 2017

Like humans, cattle tend to hang out with the same characters and do not like being separated from their mates.

Hang on — did you even know that cows had friends?

Cows-Have-Best-Friends_1cowsmo2017Research is underway to uncover if cattle socialisation could be another way for graziers to manage and improve their herds’ welfare.

CQUniversity research fellow Kym Patison has received a $20,000 grant through the CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Award to research the impacts of socialisation on welfare in cattle.

“My project will use proximity loggers as an on-animal welfare sensor,” Dr Patison said.

“Cattle have quite set social structures. They usually hang out with the same animals day in, day out.

“But if something is wrong then they’ll change their interaction patterns.”

The fact that cattle are social animals is well documented, but how that aspect of their lives impacts on productivity remains to be seen.

To test this, Dr Patison plans to put the animals under ‘light social stress’ by separating them from their friends and seeing how that impacts on welfare and, by extension, productivity.

“It’s not a nasty stress, it’s quite a subtle stress that the productivity loggers can pick up,” she said.

“Eventually we’d like to use that as a warning system for producers so they can see if the interactions are changing, something might be wrong.

“Maybe one animal might be sick and she’s taking herself away from the group. Or there could be a predator such as a wild dog, in which case they would all bunch together.

“Or there could be an empty trough and they would change their structures based on what is happening in their environment.”

The CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Award is a part of the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Dr Patison plans to submit the results of her research by the end of 2017.

 

Source: ABC Rural



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