Associations between response to handling and growth and meat quality in frequently handled Bos taurus beef cattle

SP Turner, EA Navajas, JJ Hyslop, DW Ross, RI Richardson, N Prieto, M Bell, MC Jack, R Roehe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    58 Citations (Scopus)


    Fearful behavioral responses to handling (temperament) are undesirably associated with weight gain and attributes of meat quality in infrequently handled cattle, predominantly of Bos indicus genotypes. Similar relationships are assumed to exist in calmer Bos taurus breeds in systems where handling is more frequent, but this has never been empirically assessed. During fattening, 144 crossbred cattle from Limousin and Aberdeen Angus sires were assessed for temperament on several occasions using four approaches: response to movement along a race (race score), restraint in a crush (crush score), speed of exit from the crush (flight time) and isolation in a pen with a human (isolation score). Daily weight gain (ADG) was measured between birth and slaughter and for a period during fattening between 16 and 18 months of age. Meat quality was measured by instrumental techniques and a trained sensory panel. The repeatability of temperament traits varied between 0.17 and 0.51. The proportion of the total variance of temperament traits attributable to the sire and the pen in which animals were housed was low (0.003-0.402). A calm response in the crush score test was associated with a higher ADG during fattening whilst a calm response during the isolation test was associated with a higher rate of cold carcass weight gain (both P <0.05). Calm animals in the isolation score test had significantly less tender meat as judged by the sensory panel (P <0.05), but no other statistically significant effects were apparent between any measure of temperament and meat quality, although a number of non-significant tendencies (P <0.1) were found. In isolation or in combination, frequent handling, the use of Bos taurus genotypes or differences in pre- and post-slaughter processing seem adequate to mask the effects of temperament on meat quality reported in earlier studies. Extrapolating findings on the effects of temperament across contrasting production systems may therefore be inappropriate. Whilst liveweight gain and carcass weight gain may be improved by efforts to reduce fearfulness, it is unlikely to lead to improvements in meat quality. There may however be additional phenotypic benefits of improving temperament beyond those investigated and genetic correlations between temperament and meat quality may be sufficient to warrant selection in the system studied, even in the absence of phenotypic correlations.
    Translated title of the contributionAssociations between response to handling and growth and meat quality in frequently handled Bos taurus beef cattle
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberSubmitted December 2010
    Pages (from-to)4239 - 4248
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Animal Science
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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