A temperament-scoring system for farmed red deer was developed and evaluated. Hinds (n=1102) and their progeny (n=1609) from three farms were repeatedly scored (7867 observations in total) for aggression, agitation in a pen or when confined in a crate, ease of handling, and exit speed from a crate. The animals were scored when yarded for management procedures by one handler. Inter-observer reliability recorded on a separate occasion was between 70 and 82%, measured as percentage agreement. For progeny, heritability was for aggression:0.03±0.024, agitation (pen):0.23±0.077, agitation (crate):0.17±0.056, ease of handling:0.10±0.037, and exit speed:0.04±0.021, with a repeatability of 0.19±0.018, 0.24±0.022, 0.25±0.017, 0.24±0.015, and 0.17±0.013, respectively (estimate±SE of estimate for all preceding values). For hinds, repeatability was for aggression:0.23±0.048, agitation (pen):0.16±0.068, agitation (crate):0.38±0.052, ease of handling:0.45±0.048, and exit speed:0.27±0.061 (estimate±SE of estimate), respectively. Animals that were agitated in a pen were also more agitated in a crate (r=0.352 and 0.479 for progeny and hinds, respectively), all other associations were weak (r≤0.228). Farm, year born, age, and drafting order, but not sex, influenced most temperament scores. Temperament of red deer can reliably be scored in a yard. Agitation showed a moderate genetic component and could, therefore, be included in future breeding programmes.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 76, Adelaide, 109-103, 2016
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