Beef Cattle Temperament is Linked to Health, Meat Quality

NDSU scientists have found a link between beef cattle temperament and their health and meat quality.

Xin Sun, an assistant professor in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department; Eric Berg, a professor in the Animal Sciences Department; Lauren Hanna, an associate professor in the Animal Sciences Department; and William Ogdahl, an Animal Sciences graduate student, are using video, color and near-infrared imaging to evaluate beef cattle temperament.

“Think of it this way,” Berg says. “A person with a type A personality is often more susceptible to becoming ill or contracting a disease because their temperament is always on edge. Beef cattle that possess a nervous temperament may be more prone to disease. Also, because these animals are for meat production, the heightened metabolism associated with a very active instinct for fight or flight means they will deposit less fat for marbling and the tense muscles will lead to tougher meat.”

According to Sun, one of their most significant findings was a relationship between beef cattle eye temperature from the thermal imagery data and beef cattle temperament scores. Also, an excited animal will have a larger pupil dilation as an involuntary mechanism associated with the survival instinct.

Feedlot managers and producers have known that excitable cattle are more difficult to handle and can be more costly to raise because they require more handling and cattle-damaged equipment needs to be repaired. Having objective measurements will allow producers to make better management decisions that could impact worker and animal welfare positively, the scientists say.

The study also showed that steers subjected to isolation and restraint stress had darker lean meat, which leads to lower beef quality.

“If we provide an easier, accurate research tool to let beef producers better manage the cattle with temperament, the producers will provide a better beef product to the consumers,” Sun says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Xin Sun, 701-231-5756, xin.sun@ndsu.edu

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