Evaluation of beef herd responses to unfamiliar humans and potential influencing factors: An exploratory survey on French farms

Abstract : The human-animal relationship plays a major role in animal welfare, production, and farmers' work safety. However, few on-farm experiments have been conducted with beef cattle to assess the human-animal relationship. This exploratory study on beef cattle farms aimed to investigate relationships between farmers' practices (herd management), attitudes towards their animals and handling, and animals' reactions to humans. This study was conducted on 20 French beef cattle farms with a wide range of sizes (utilized agricultural area, permanent pasture area and number of cattle). A semi-structured interview to understand practices related to the human-animal relationship, a questionnaire assessing farmers' attitudes towards their animals and animal handling, and a behavioral test of animals' reactions to humans (an avoidance test) were performed. A Generalized Linear Mixed Model was used to analyze relations among data. Farm size characteristics were not related to animal fear responses. Farmers reporting a lack of time for handling their cattle monitored them less frequently (p < 0.05). Their cattle kept a larger avoidance distance from an unfamiliar human during the avoidance test (p < 0.01). Avoidance distance also tended to be larger for the cattle of farmers who reported not making physical contact with cattle when monitoring them and not including behavior as a genetic criterion for selection (p < 0.1). Making physical contact with cattle during monitoring, monitoring frequently, and including behavior in genetic selection were identified as three "relational practices" (i.e., those that farmers purposely adopt to reduce fear responses and improve the human-animal relationship). This exploratory study was able to reveal significant links between farmers' reported practices and animals' behavioral responses.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 6, 2018 - 2:01:35 PM
Last modification on : Monday, September 2, 2019 - 2:46:17 PM

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Alexandra Destrez, Emmanuelle Haslin, Gwendoline Elluin, Claire Gaillard, Nathalie Hostiou, et al.. Evaluation of beef herd responses to unfamiliar humans and potential influencing factors: An exploratory survey on French farms. Livestock Science, Elsevier, 2018, 212, pp.7 - 13. ⟨10.1016/j.livsci.2018.03.011⟩. ⟨hal-01913578⟩

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