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An examination of the temperamental and ability characteristics of large animals under open-field and stress conditions

In this study an attempt was made to adapt two tests, developed for use with rats and mice, for work with the larger animals in order to assess their worth for measuring the temperamental and ability characteristics of domestic farm species. To assess the temperamental characteristics an open-field, scaled to 72 feet by 72 feet, was used to score 30 pigs, 30 sheep and 44 cows on three criteria; ambulation, elimination and vocalisation. These scores were correlated with dairymen’s ratings of the cows and plasma cortisol levels in the sheep. It became clear that the open-field test requires further modification before it can provide meaningful results for domestic stock. The closed-field test was used with 63 pigs, 103 sheep, and 73 cows to measure the “intelligence” of normal farm animals. Time and error scores and general behaviour were recorded and analysed, and showed characteristic species differences. In the evaluation of scores from both tests the importance of group effects found in herd animals was considered. A relationship between the closed-field test performance, and the social status of the animals in each test group was considered. Practical problems such as; animal-experimenter interactions; adequate motivation of ruminants; the impossibility of man-handling large animals like cows, and the kind of modifications which must be made to apparatus for this type of work ,are fully discussed. Isolating herd or flock animals appears to cause stress. The results of the closed-field test were compared with similar results from other studies where mice, rats, cats, dogs, ferrets, hens and other species have been tested in smaller versions of the closed-field. The general conclusion is that the potential for training, or utilising in other ways the ability inherent in the farm animal in New Zealand has hardly been touched. Though a number of experimenters have commented on these abilities during trials in research institutions such information has not been fully exploited in normal farm practice.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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