Associations between response to handling and growth and meat quality in frequently handled Bos taurus beef cattle
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Fearful behavioral responses to handling (temperament) are undesirably associated with ADG and meat quality in infrequently handled Bos indicus cattle. It has never been assessed whether these relationships exist in calmer Bos taurus breeds in systems where handling is more frequent. Such systems predominate in some countries where beef production is a major agricultural activity. During fattening, 144 crossbred cattle from Limousin and Aberdeen Angus sires were assessed for temperament using 4 approaches: response to movement along a race (race score; 4 occasions), restraint in a crush (crush score; 4 occasions), flight speed from the crush (flight speed; 4 occasions), and isolation in a pen with a human (isolation score; 1 occasion in yr 1, 2 occasions in yr 2). Measurements of ADG were made between birth and slaughter and between 16 and 18 mo of age during fattening. Fattening occurred indoors on a complete mixed diet fed for ad libitum intake. Meat quality was measured by pH, color, and Volodkevitch shear force and by a sensory panel. The repeatability of temperament traits was 0.17 (race score), 0.35 (crush score), 0.51 (flight speed), and 0.36 (isolation score). The proportion of the total variance of temperament traits attributable to the sire and the social group was low (0.003 to 0.402). However, the sire did affect behavior in all tests apart from the crush score (ranging from P = 0.02 to P < 0.001). Correlations between behavior in the different tests (ranging from r = 0.21 to 0.54, and P = 0.02 to P < 0.001) apart from between-flight speed and isolation score indicate that fearful behavior was consistently shown across assessment methods. A calm response in the crush score test was associated with a greater ADG during fattening (P = 0.05), whereas a calm response during the isolation test was associated with a greater ADG in cold carcass weight (P = 0.02). Animals with a calm isolation score had less tender meat as judged by the sensory panel (P = 0.03), but no other effects were apparent between temperament and meat quality measures, although several tendencies (0.06 ≤ P ≤ 0.10) were found. Temperament did not appear to relate to meat quality in this study of frequently handled Bos taurus genotypes, which is in contrast to other studies using different beef production systems. Genetic correlations between temperament and meat quality under these conditions could, although not measured in this study, still exist in the absence of phenotypic correlations.
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Journal of Animal Science