Stress responses to comparative handling procedures in sheep

Animal. 2013 Jan;7(1):143-50. doi: 10.1017/S1751731112001449. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


The objective of this study was to compare some husbandry procedures on the base of physiological stress parameters and evaluate the welfare status in sheep. Forty ewes were used as the study material. Measurements were taken during several routine husbandry procedures such as milking, shearing, weighing, loading and hoof care. Data regarding time spent for each application, as well as heart and respiratory rates were recorded during the applications. Blood samples were taken 15 min before and after each application and malondialdehyde (MDA), glutathione-peroxidase (GSH-Px), cortisol T(3) and T(4) parameters were measured. In addition, changes in the same parameters between pre- and post-application periods were evaluated. According to the results, machine milking caused less stress than hand milking. No significant difference was seen between shearing methods for hand shearer or clipper; however, both applications caused stress in animals. The results for weighing methods of animals demonstrated significant differences in cortisol, T(3) and T(4) values in favor of traditional method. Cortisol, T(3) and T(4) levels were significantly higher in manual loading compared with loading by ramp. Regarding hoof care, all the examined parameters differed in favor of modern method. On the other hand, significant differences were determined between the stress parameters regarding pre- and post-applications. All values differed for hand milking while no significant difference was observed in MDA and T(3) values in machine milking group. Parameters in weighing groups changed significantly. For loading process, GSH, cortisol, T(3) and T(4) values differed in both treatment groups. With regard to hoof care, parameters except T(4) in laying group differed significantly. An increase occurred in minute-based measurements of heart and respiratory rates parallel to physiological data. The number of the respiratory rates during the applications differed except for the shearing process. All the parameters displayed significant differences between groups in terms of heart rates. Time spent for each application also differed between groups. Time saved for milking, shearing, weighing, loading and hoof care was 3.23 min, 4.37 min, 1.71 min, 7.85 s and 1.55 min, respectively. These results appear to provide a tangible advantage of using new husbandry methods to the breeders. It was concluded that using new methods in sheep husbandry procedures provided advantages in terms of saving time and reducing labor, as well as improved conditions for welfare of animals. In addition, it facilitated the routine works and flock husbandry.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / blood
  • Handling, Psychological*
  • Heart Rate
  • Hormones / blood
  • Malondialdehyde / blood
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Sheep, Domestic / physiology*
  • Spectrophotometry / veterinary
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Hormones
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Glutathione Peroxidase