Calm as a cow – breeding for improved temperament in dairy cattle

Last changed: 01 December 2022

Temperament and behavior is important both for the welfare of the cow and for the working environment of the stable staff. The goal of this study is to improve the breeding evaluation for temperament in dairy cows by utilizing different types of data that are automatically recorded on-farm, via, for example, the milking machine. Cows with a temperament that is well adapted to their environment can be assumed to experience less stress, and this may improve the working environment for the stable staff with a lower risk of accidents and injuries to animals and people. The project is carried out in collaboration between SLU and Växa Sweden.

In the project, we want to investigate whether automatic records of behavior, which are collected on-farm via SLU's infrastructure project Gigacow, lead to better breeding evaluation for temperament in dairy cattle. In the first part of the project, we will conduct an interview study, where we will ask farmers to describe what good temperament actually means to them. In this way, we can get answers to which type of behavior is most important to capture in a breeding evaluation, as well as whether there are differences between farms with different types of milking systems, breeds or herd size. Based on the interviews, we will perform behavioral studies to measure the characteristics that the farmers describe as important. Finally, we will investigate whether some of these behavioral characteristics are related to traits recorded via, for example, automatic milking systems or other types of sensors available on farms included in Gigacow. If so, this data could form the basis for genetic evaluation.

Facts:

The project is funded by the Swedish farmers’ foundation for agricultural research (Stiftelsen Lantbruksforskning).

The project started in 2022 and will continue to the end of 2025.

Project leader is Katja Nilsson, and the project group also involve Tomas Klingström, Teresa Johansson och Lotta Rydhmer from SLU, as well as Freddy Fikse from Växa Sverige.


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