Stress research in farm animals is becoming increasingly important as a result of public concern for the welfare of animals and the ongoing need to increase the efficiency of animal production. Changes in the behaviour of animals is often the first indicator that a particular farming practice may be aversive or stressful. For example, cattle housed indoors on concrete floors have fewer resting bouts than those on deep litter or at pasture. Subsequent measurement of a variety of physiological parameters confirmed that lying down on slatted floors is stressful. Changes were noted in the episodic secretory pattern of glucocorticosterioid hormone, in the cortisol response to challenge with a standard dose of ACTH (1-24) and in heart rate. Ongoing studies with dairy cattle indicate that the frequencies and types of fly-avoidance behaviours utilised by animals without tails differ from those with tails. In addition, animals without tails have a higher number of flies on the body. Physiological parameters will be monitored to determine if the decreased ability of cattle without tails to remove flies results in altered physiological responses indicative of stress. These studies show that a multi-disciplinary approach is required to quantify the relative stressfulness of various farming practices.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 52, , 41-44, 1992
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