Using body language to assess emotional states in dairy cows

Last changed: 13 September 2023
Photo: One brown and one black cow standing in the box looking at you.

Good animal welfare is more than the absence of pain and suffering - welfare can be regarded as the possibility to experience positive emotional states. Interest in investigating positive emotions in animals has grown lately. The challenge is for us to be able to assess these emotions through animals' behaviour and physiology.

We aim to study the behavioural and physiological responses in dairy cows during presumably positive and negative situations. Grooming behaviour seems to be linked with positive reward and wellbeing, mechanical brushes are becoming more common in loose housing and are used frequently by cows. This makes the use of mechanical brushes an effective tool to investigate positive emotions and their functions. We also want to study how positive and negative handling and brush use correlate with production and health.

This project is financed by Formas and is part of Centre of Excellence in Animal Welfare Science, and CNPq for funding to Daiana de Oliveira.

Contact: Linda Keeling



  • de Oliveira D, Keeling LJ (2018) Routine activities and emotion in the life of dairy cows: Integrating body language into an affective state framework. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0195674.