Consistency of aggressive feeding behaviour in dairy cows

JM Gibbons, AB Lawrence, MJ Haskell

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35 Citations (Scopus)


This study tests the two main characteristics of a temperament trait, consistency across time and consistency across situations. The temperament trait of interest was aggressiveness during feeding in dairy cattle. In this study, we focused on whether it is possible to infer a trait of aggressiveness from the measurement of behavioural responses expressed by individual cows during feeding. Aggressive behaviour appears in many contexts but this paper focuses on aggressive behaviour in a competitive situation over a feed resource in housed dairy cattle. It is important that we fully understand within-cow consistency of aggressiveness in different competitive and social situations. To achieve this the following questions were investigated: (1) are cows consistent in how they express aggressive behaviour over time? (2) and across situations at a standard and reduced (competitive) feedface? The aim of this study was to measure the behavioural reactions of housed dairy cattle during feeding in a way that can be practically and easily recorded on commercial farms. Ten primiparous and 30 multiparous healthy lactating cows were housed in a group (parity = 3.5 2.15; mean S.D.). The behaviour of the aggressor and recipient was recorded for each aggressive interaction for 60 min after feed arrival. Repeatability estimates and Kendall’s coefficient of concordance were both used to assess consistency of aggressor and recipient behaviours across time. The within-cow repeatability was highest for ‘aggressive index’ (r = 0.31) and lowest for non-response behaviours (r = 0.04) across time. Individual’s responses to the standard and reduced feedface were significantly correlated for contact and non-contact behaviours. These results highlight the complexity of aggressive style of cows during feeding and illustrate that some measures of aggressive feeding behaviour are repeatable within cows. 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 7
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number1
Publication statusFirst published - 2009

Bibliographical note



  • Aggression
  • Dairy cattle
  • Feeding
  • Temperament


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