Personality and production in dairy cows
Variation in animal personality, in other words, behavioural responses consistent within individuals over time and/or across contexts, is predicted to be related to life-history traits, such as growth rate and investment in reproduction. How this translates into relationships between personality and milk production in dairy cows is however scarcely investigated and previous studies are showing contradicting results. To further investigate this relationship, individual consistencies in behaviour were related to milk production in two breeds of dairy cows (Swedish red and white cattle, SRB, and Holstein). Variation was found among the breeds in consistency of behaviours and both SRB and Holstein cows were highly consistent over time in stepping behaviour during milking and frequency of performed abnormal behaviours in home pen. Overall were Holstein cows consistent in more observed behaviours than SRB. Variation in neophobia and responses to social separation were more flexible, both among breeds and over time. Nevertheless, behaviour showed limited relationship with milk production. To conclude, the tests here carried out are useful in describing personality in cows; however, personality showed no relationship with milk production, encouraging future studies to explore this expected relationship further in other breeds and species.
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