Angus and Hereford-Angus cross bulls (n = 58) and steers (n = 59) were assessed for temperament 3 times during post-weaning growth and for behaviour during pre-slaughter holding in order to investigate relationships between these traits and measures of growth and meat quality including meat tenderness and meat colour. Composite on-farm temperament scores encompassed measures during weighing of stepping and unease on the scale, and speed of movement and level of agitation when released from the scale. Pre-slaughter assessments included counts of butting, pushing, fighting and mounting. Plasma levels of cortisol, glucose, lactate and fatty acids at slaughter were measured. On-farm temperament scores were significantly correlated (P < 0.0001) between the 3 times and between measures within a time. On-farm measures, however, were not related to pre-slaughter scores or to plasma cortisol or metabolite levels. Plasma cortisol levels were significantly higher for steers than bulls (43.8 vs 22.4 ng/ml; P < 0.001) as reported previously, and bulls had significantly higher pre-slaughter behaviour scores, but there were no castration effects on levels of plasma metabolites or on-farm temperament scores. Relationships between behavioural traits and measures of growth rate and meat quality based on treatment-adjusted residuals were low and non-significant. It is concluded that despite on-farm temperament scores being moderately repeatable, these measures were not associated with differences in pre-slaughter behaviour, and neither of these traits was associated with growth rate or measures of meat quality. KEYWORDS: animal behaviour; meat quality; meat pH; cortisol; growth rate; tenderness.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 261-265, 2005
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