Shahin, M. 2018. The effects of positive human contact by tactile stimulation on dairy cows with different personalities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 204, 23-28.
The understanding of the ways in which cows with different personalities perceive human contact is essential for improving the quality of the human-animal relationship and therefore the welfare of dairy cows. The general objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of tactile stimulation on the avoidance distance, and how these effects relate to the personality of dairy cows. The specific objectives were to (1) compare the avoidance distances before and after a tactile stimulation period, (2) compare the avoidance distance according to the personality of the cows and to (3) analyse the relationship between the avoidance distance and the exit time of the cows. The study was performed with 38 Holstein Friesian cows, which received tactile stimulation by stroking the ventral part of the neck at the milking parlour, 5 min/day for 15 days (75 min of tactile stimulation per cow). Each cow’s personality was categorised as high responder (HR) or low responder (LR) based on the time taken to exit a weight scale. The avoidance distances of the cows were measured before and after the tactile stimulation period. Avoidance distances decreased after the tactile stimulation period for both HR and LR cows (p = 0.042). HR and LR cows did not differ in avoidance distances either before (p = 0.967) or after (p = 0.633) the tactile stimulation. Avoidance distances before and after the tactile stimulation did not differ for both HR cows (p = 0.104) and LR cows (p = 0.189). There was no correlation between the avoidance distances and the exit time both before (p = 0.759) and after (p =0 .979) the tactile stimulation. There was a positive correlation between age and exit time for all cows (p = 0.009). No correlation was found between age and exit time in the group of HR cows (p = 0.126) or in the group of LR cows (p = 0.143). Stroking the ventral part of the neck improved the human-animal relationship, probably due to cows fearing humans less, regardless of individual cow’s personality. This human-cow interaction could be easily used on dairy farms.