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Cattle temperament: Persistence of assessments and associations with productivity, efficiency, carcass and meat quality traits

Cafe, L.M., Robinson, D.L., Ferguson, D.M., McIntyre, B.L., Geesink, G.H., Greenwood, P.L.
Journal of animal science 2011 v.89 no.5 pp. 1452-1465
Angus, Brahman, beef, beef carcasses, carcass quality, carcass weight, feed conversion, feed intake, finishing, genetic markers, grains, heifers, meat quality, pastures, slaughter, steers, temperament, New South Wales, Western Australia
Relationships between temperament and a range of performance, carcass, and meat quality traits in young cattle were studied in 2 experiments conducted in New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA), Australia. In both experiments, growth rates of cattle were assessed during backgrounding on pasture and grain finishing in a feedlot. Carcass and objective meat quality characteristics were measured after slaughter. Feed intake and efficiency during grain finishing were also determined in NSW. Brahman (n = 82 steers and 82 heifers) and Angus (n = 25 steers and 24 heifers) cattle were used in the NSW experiment. In NSW, temperament was assessed by measuring flight speed [FS, m/s on exit from the chute (crush)] on 14 occasions, and by assessing agitation score during confinement in the crush (CS; 1 = calm to 5 = highly agitated) on 17 occasions over the course of the experiment. Brahman (n = 173) and Angus (n = 20) steers were used in the WA experiment. In WA, temperament was assessed by measuring FS on 2 occasions during backgrounding and on 2 occasions during grain feeding. At both sites, a hormonal growth promotant (Revalor-H, Virbac, Milperra, New South Wales, Australia) was applied to one-half of the cattle at feedlot entry, and the Brahman cattle were polymorphic for 2 calpain-system markers for beef tenderness. Temperament was not related (most P > 0.05) to tenderness gene marker status in Brahman cattle and was not (all P > 0.26) modified by the growth promotant treatment in either breed. The Brahman cattle had greater individual variation in, and greater correlations within and between, repeated assessments of FS and CS than did the Angus cattle. Correlations for repeated measures of FS were greater than for repeated assessments of CS, and the strength of correlations for both declined over time. Average FS or CS for each experiment and location (NSW or WA x backgrounding or finishing) were more highly correlated than individual measurements, indicating that the average values were a more reliable assessment of cattle temperament than any single measure. In Brahman cattle, increased average FS and CS were associated with significant (P < 0.05) reductions in backgrounding and feedlot growth rates, feed intake and time spent eating, carcass weight, and objective measures of meat quality. In Angus cattle, the associations between temperament and growth rates, feed intake, and carcass traits were weaker than in Brahmans, although the strength of relationships with meat quality were similar.