Minor corral changes and adoption of good handling practices can improve the behavior and reduce cortisol release in Nellore cows

Trop Anim Health Prod. 2018 Mar;50(3):525-530. doi: 10.1007/s11250-017-1463-9. Epub 2017 Nov 14.

Abstract

Inadequate corral facilities and improper handling are major causes of stress in beef cattle. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of minor changes in the corral and adoption of good handling practices on the behavior, cortisol release, and time spent taking blood samples in Nellore cows. Minor corral changes included obstructing the cow's vision when the handler walked deep into the animal's flight zone and the elimination of bright objects, color contrasts, puddles, shadows, and darkness in the corral. Handling was improved by eliminating dogs, electric goads (prods), and yelling, as well as adopting a calm behavior. A total of 141 Nellore cows from two typical extensive livestock farms were studied. The cows were evaluated individually before and after the corral changes. Blood samples were collected in the restraint device for cortisol measurement. The minor corral changes and the adoption of good handling practices result in better results for all variables studied. The results showed differences in the interactions between treatment and ranch for chute score (P = 0.0091) and exit score (P < 0.0001). The cortisol release was lower (P < 0.001) and better for the improved methods, resulting in calmer cows compared to cortisol released before the minor changes (41.03 ± 2.9 vs 60.40 ± 3.8 ng/mL). Minor changes made in the corrals and the adoption of good handling practices were effective in improving cow behavior in the chute and in reducing exit velocity, cortisol released, and the time spent taking blood samples.

Keywords: Bovine; Facilities; Handling; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control

Substances

  • Hydrocortisone