LSU AgCenter Researchers Studying Cattle Temperament

Sidney M. Derouen, Franke, Donald E., Wyatt, Wayne E., Coolman, Denise  |  8/17/2005 2:06:19 AM

Dr. Sid DeRouen of the LSU AgCenter's Hill Farm Research Station at Homer is one of several researchers who are studying how temperament affects profitability of cattle herds in Louisiana. Temperament is evaluated by having cattle subjectively scored in a squeeze chute on a 1 to 5 scale – with a score of 1 meaning the cow stays calm and stands still and a score of 5 meaning the cow jumps, rears up and acts highly agitated. Cattle also are judged based on the speed with which they exit the chute. Researchers believe lower chute scores and slower exit velocities may indicate more docile dispositions.

News Release Distributed 08/16/05

HOMER – LSU AgCenter researchers are studying how cows’ temperaments affect profitability of cattle herds in Louisiana.

Dr. Sid DeRouen, a researcher at the LSU AgCenter’s Hill Farm Research Station in Homer, said the study is part of a regional project that involves other universities across the southern United States.

"There is a significant level of Brahman influence with cattle in the southern region," DeRouen said. "This study will help us determine how temperament affects beef cattle’s production traits."

Brahman cattle originated in India and were brought to the United States in the mid-1800s. The cattle adapt well to the hot, humid conditions of the southern region of the United States, so the breed is used extensively in crossbreeding programs.

But experts said one characteristic that appears to be associated with Brahman inheritance is a more excitable temperament. That could create difficulties for producers when handling or "working" cattle.

"Many of the cattle producers are getting up in age and don’t want to deal with cattle that can’t be adequately managed," DeRouen said. "If one or both parents of a calf have a bad temperament, there is a good probability their offspring will have a bad temperament, because this trait is moderately heritable."

In this study, LSU AgCenter researchers and others are evaluating cattle’s temperaments in a "squeeze chute," which typically is used for performing a variety of functions in cattle operations.

The cattle are subjectively scored on a scale of 1 to 5 based on their behavior in a squeeze chute. A score of 1 means the cow was calm and stands still, while a score of 5 indicates jumping, rearing and acting highly agitated.

The cattle also are objectively evaluated by measuring chute exit velocity – the speed of the animal after it exits the squeeze chute.

Researchers believe lower chute scores and slower exit velocities may indicate more docile temperaments.

The multi-university/agency study was initiated in 2004, and researchers say it will take a few more years before any solid conclusions can be drawn.

"We want to measure what associations there are between cattle temperament and various production traits." DeRouen said. "What we’re researching is to determine whether culling cattle with ‘bad attitudes’ will result in herds with increased productivity and ultimately more profit potential for producers."

In addition to DeRouen, Dr. Don Franke of the LSU AgCenter’s Animal Science Department and Dr. Wayne Wyatt of the LSU AgCenter’s Iberia Research Station are involved with a host of other researchers working on this multi-state project.

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Contacts:
Sid DeRouen at (318) 927-2578 or sderouen@agcenter.lsu.edu
Don Franke at (225) 578-3241 or dfranke@agcenter.lsu.edu
Wayne Wyatt at (337) 276-5527 or wwyatt@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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