Scots launch cattle temperament study

The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has embarked on an on-farm cattle behaviour study to establish if there is a link between temperament and eating quality.

Strong flight responses are undesirable, because they risk the safety of both the handler and the animal and require additional labour to control stock. Studies on Bos indicus-derived cattle have also linked flighty temperaments with poor weight gain and poorer meat-eating quality in feedlot and ranch systems.

The Scottish red meat industry now wants to establish whether there is a link between temperament and meat quality for cattle raised in Scottish conditions.

Andy McGowan, head of industry development at Quality Meat Scotland, said: "As Bos indicus-derived cattle tend to be more flighty than the Bos taurus stock used in the UK, the variation between animals is likely to be noticeably different, so we cannot assume that the current findings would be valid here.

"This study will assess the temperament of beef cattle on Scottish commercial farms during routine handling in a weigh crate. Carcase data will then be obtained following slaughter, to determine the links between temperament and the end product."

The QMS-funded project has so far studied the handling behaviour of 151 cattle and the team will return to the farms this year, so that they can average the animals' behaviour over two occasions.

It is hoped that the findings will help farmers breed cattle that are more docile to handle, which produces a better quality of meat.

"This study is aimed at confirming whether there is an association between temperament, weight gain and carcase traits under Scottish conditions and will hopefully supply us with results, so we can then go on to look at this at a genetic level," said McGowan.