Externally funded project

A project of the LOEWE Research Cluster Animals – Humans – Society (LOEWE B3)


Today, the human-animal relationship (HAR) is seen as an essential component of any strategy intending to improve the welfare, health and productivity of dairy cows and the work safety and quality of stockpersons. HAR can be measured via behavioural and physiological responses of the animal towards humans. So far, HAR-indicators have predominantly been developed and used in the context of applied animal behaviour research. However, the reactivity of dairy cattle may also be of interest in the context of breeding, since the heritability is estimated to be moderate. Breeding associations started to use average milk flow per minute and milking behaviour (subjective evaluation by the stockperson) as selection criteria in order to improve manageability, to reduce stress susceptibility, and to prevent milk ejection problems. However, their relia-bility and validity are insufficiently validated. Thus, in the present four-years-project a search for measures is undertaken, which allow reliable conclusions on HAR under different management and housing conditions, and which are suitable as breeding measures. As a reference, established HAR indicators, namely the cow's avoidance distance towards an unfamiliar experimenter in a standardised test (AD) are applied. Furthermore, the project analyses the effect of environmental factors (human attitude and behaviour, husbandry and management conditions) on these measures. For this, on-farm assessments on 32 dairy farms in Germany with a minimum of 1,000 dairy cows in total are conducted using the HAR measures, which have been selected on the basis of their validity, reliability and feasibility in a pilot study. The avoidance distance of cows towards an unfamiliar experimenter, the behavioural responses (stepping and kicking) of cows during milking are applied as well as innovative HAR measures: qualitative behaviour assessment of the cow's responses in a standardised human-cow interaction (QBA), contact tolerance in a standardised tactile interaction and the behaviour when released from restraint.The associated CoreOrganic Project "Organic Dairy Health" examines, furthermore, relationships between HAR, stress responses and udder health.

Funded by the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts

Last updated on 2018-31-08 at 12:50