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Quantifying fearfulness and aggression in beefcattle using saliva hormone measurements

Lookup NU author(s): Jim Clapp


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Saliva hormone measurements provide, throughthe combination of non-invasive and integratedcollection, values for the free and active form ofcirculating hormones. Non-invasive techniquesare preferred to avoid protocol stress whiletime accumulated samples resolves the problemof hormone level pulsatility. Fearfulness andaggression in beef cattle are of high importance beinglinked to poor welfare and productivity. Cortisolis the principle stress hormone in cattle, whiletestosterone and progesterone have been linked toaggression in male mammals. This study involvedtaking saliva samples from 120 fattening beefbulls of age range 6 to 24 months. Concentrationsof cortisol in conjunction with testosterone andprogesterone, were measured in saliva samplesusing LC-MS/MS detection. The stress responsein terms of heart rate and heart rate variabilityto saliva collection by hand vacuum pump wasmeasured using a Polar heart monitor. It was foundthat saliva collection was stressful and related to thefearfulness of individual cattle to human approach.Sequential saliva sampling determined that a 15minute time delay occurred between the acute stressof capture, identifi ed by peak heart rate, and thepeak of saliva cortisol concentration. Testosteronelevels also increased following the acute stressof capture, while progesterone levels remainedstatic. Both testosterone and progesterone levelswere positively correlated to age. These fi ndingsare critical to the interpretation of saliva hormonelevels for quantifying fearfulness and aggression inbeef cattle.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clapp JB

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 3rd Annual ISWE meeting on Non-invasive Monitoring of Hormones

Year of Conference: 2012