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Evaluation of tropically adapted straightbred and crossbred beef cattle: Cortisol concentration and measures of temperament at weaning and transport.

Chase, C. C. Jr., Randel, R. D., Riley, D. G., Coleman, S. W., Phillips, W. A.
Journal of animal science 2017 v.95 no.12 pp. 5253-5262
Angus, Brahman, Romosinuano, animal transport, beef cattle, blood plasma, blood sampling, calves, cortisol, crossbreds, dams (mothers), diallel analysis, heifers, heterosis, purebreds, reciprocal crosses, sires, steers, temperament, weaning, Florida, Oklahoma
The objective of this research was to evaluate circulating concentrations of plasma cortisol and measures of temperament at weaning in calves (steers and heifers) and at transport in steers. Calves (n = 993) were produced from a 3-breed diallel mating design that included calves from 3 consecutive years. Breed types of calves were straightbred Angus (A), Brahman (B), and Romosinuano (R) and all F1 crossbred combinations (AB, BA, AR, RA, BR, and RB). At weaning (d 0) and at 24 and 72 h after weaning, blood was sampled from calves and the plasma was stored for later cortisol assay. Additionally, at each of these times, temperament was assessed as chute score, exit velocity, and pen score. About 1 mo later, steer calves (n = 471) were sampled before shipment, at arrival, and at 24 h, 72 h, 2 wk, and 4 wk after shipment (2,025 km; Brooksville, FL, to El Reno, OK). At each of these sampling times, blood was collected and plasma was stored for subsequent cortisol assay and temperament was assessed by measurement of exit velocity. At both weaning and transport, plasma concentrations of cortisol did not significantly differ (P > 0.05) among straightbreds or among crossbreds. Significant (P < 0.05) positive genetic effects were observed for plasma concentration of cortisol at weaning (heterosis for BA and direct Romosinuano effect) and transport (heterosis for RA, BR, and BA; direct Romosinuano effect; and maternal Angus effect). Assessment of temperament using the objective measurement of exit velocity or the subjective measures of chute score or pen score (1 [lowest] to 5 [highest excitability] scale, based on behavior in chute and behavior in pen with human observer, respectively) generally provided similar results: Brahman was higher than Brahman crosses, which were higher than Angus, Romosinuano, and their reciprocal crosses. For exit velocity, however, Brahman did not differ from Brahman crosses and Angus did not differ from Romosinuano or Brahman crosses. At transport, sire breed and dam breed affected exit velocity of steers, with higher (P < 0.05) estimates for Brahman than for Romosinuano or Angus. These data suggest that weaned calves and shipped steers of various breed types show a similar response to stressors in cortisol concentration. In contrast, in assessing temperament or behavioral response to humans, Romosinuano and Angus had better temperaments and were less excitable than Brahman.