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.

KE Schütz, JF Ward, NR Cox, and GW Asher

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 76, Adelaide, 109-103, 2016
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