Levente Kovács


2 The Role of Behavioral Syndromes in Human-Cattle Interactions: A Physiological Approach

Authors: Levente Kovács, Fruzsina Luca Kézér, Ottó Szenci, Viktor Jurkovich, János Tőzsér


Positive interaction between people and animals could have a favorable effect on the welfare and production by reducing stress levels. However, to the repeated contact with humans (e.g. farm staff, veterinarians or herdsmen), animals may respond with escape behavior or avoidance, which both have negative effects on the ease of handling, welfare and may lead to the expression of aggressive behaviors. Rough or aversive handling can impair health and the function of the cardiac autonomic activity due to fear and stress, which also can be determined by certain parameters of heart rate variability (HRV). Although the essential relationships between fear from humans and basal tone of the autonomic nervous system were described by the authors previously, several questions remained unclear in terms of the associations between different coping strategies (behavioral syndromes) of the animals and physiological responsiveness to humans. The main goal of this study was to find out whether human behavior and emotions to the animals have an impact on cardiac function and behavior of animals with different coping styles in response situations. Therefore, in the present study, special (fear, approaching, restraint, novel arena, novel object) tests were performed on healthy, 2-year old heifers (n = 104) differing in coping styles [reactive (passive) vs. proactive (active) coping]. Animals were categorized as reactive or proactive based on the following tests: 1) aggressive behavior at the feeding bunk, 2) avoidance from an approaching person, 3) immobility, and 4) daily activity (number of posture changes). Heart rate, the high frequency (HF) component of HRV as a measure of vagal activity and the ratio between the low frequency (LF) and HF components (LF/HF ratio) as a parameter of sympathetic nervous system activity were calculated for all individual during lying posture (baseline) and for response situations in novel object, novel arena, and unfamiliar person tests (both for 5 min), respectively. The differences between baseline and response were compared between groups. Higher sympathetic (higher heart rates and LF/HF ratios) and lower parasympathetic activity (lower HF) was found for proactive animals in response situations than for reactive (passive) animals either during the novel object, the novel arena and the unfamiliar person test. It suggests that animals with different behavioral traits differ in their immediate autonomic adaptation to novelty and people. Based on our preliminary results, it seems, that the analysis of HRV can help to understand the physiological manifestation of responsiveness to novelty and human presence in dairy cattle with different behavioral syndromes.

Keywords: proactive coping, behavioral syndromes, human-cattle interaction, novel arena test, physiological responsiveness, reactive coping

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1 Rumination Time and Reticuloruminal Temperature around Calving in Eutocic and Dystocic Dairy Cows

Authors: Levente Kovács, Fruzsina Luca Kézér, Ottó Szenci


Prediction of the onset of calving and recognizing difficulties at calving has great importance in decreasing neonatal losses and reducing the risk of health problems in the early postpartum period. In this study, changes of rumination time, reticuloruminal pH and temperature were investigated in eutocic (EUT, n = 10) and dystocic (DYS, n = 8) dairy cows around parturition. Rumination time was continuously recorded using an acoustic biotelemetry system, whereas reticuloruminal pH and temperature were recorded using an indwelling and wireless data transmitting system. The recording period lasted from 3 d before calving until 7 days in milk. For the comparison of rumination time and reticuloruminal characteristics between groups, time to return to baseline (the time interval required to return to baseline from the delivery of the calf) and area under the curve (AUC, both for prepartum and postpartum periods) were calculated for each parameter. Rumination time decreased from baseline 28 h before calving both for EUT and DYS cows (P = 0.023 and P = 0.017, respectively). After 20 h before calving, it decreased onwards to reach 32.4 ± 2.3 and 13.2 ± 2.0 min/4 h between 8 and 4 h before delivery in EUT and DYS cows, respectively, and then it decreased below 10 and 5 min during the last 4 h before calving (P = 0.003 and P = 0.008, respectively). Until 12 h after delivery rumination time reached 42.6 ± 2.7 and 51.0 ± 3.1 min/4 h in DYS and EUT dams, respectively, however, AUC and time to return to baseline suggested lower rumination activity in DYS cows than in EUT dams for the 168-h postpartum observational period (P = 0.012 and P = 0.002, respectively). Reticuloruminal pH decreased from baseline 56 h before calving both for EUT and DYS cows (P = 0.012 and P = 0.016, respectively), but did not differ between groups before delivery. In DYS cows, reticuloruminal temperature decreased from baseline 32 h before calving by 0.23 ± 0.02 °C (P = 0.012), whereas in EUT cows such a decrease was found only 20 h before delivery (0.48 ± 0.05 °C, P < 0.01). AUC of reticuloruminal temperature calculated for the prepartum period was greater in EUT cows than in DYS cows (P = 0.042). During the first 4 h after calving, it decreased from 39.7 ± 0.1 to 39.00 ± 0.1 °C and from 39.8 ± 0.1 to 38.8 ± 0.1 °C in EUT and DYS cows, respectively (P < 0.01 for both groups) and reached baseline levels after 35.4 ± 3.4 and 37.8 ± 4.2 h after calving in EUT and DYS cows, respectively. Based on our results, continuous monitoring of changes in rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature seems to be promising in the early detection of cows with a higher risk of dystocia. Depressed postpartum rumination time of DYS cows highlights the importance of the monitoring of cows experiencing difficulties at calving.

Keywords: Dystocia, dairy cows, reticuloruminal pH, reticuloruminal temperature, rumination time

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