Attitudes of farmers towards Limousin cattle and their handling
Farmers' behaviour towards their animals could be improved by developing training programmes designed to decrease handling stress and improve animal welfare. This requires key preliminary work to collate farmers' beliefs concerning beef cattle and their knowledge of how to handle them easily. This paper reports the preliminary results of a survey conducted in 2004 among Limousin farmers. Fifty-five percent of the 300 French beef cattle farmers surveyed returned a questionnaire covering ease of handling, husbandry conditions, attitudes towards cattle, and behaviour during handling and husbandry practices. The results revealed that farmers' attitudes were generally positive. However, variability within each item indicated the potential for improvement. Temperament of heifers or cows is the first trait considered in decisions on culling an animal. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) showed a relationship between positive attitudes towards animals and towards contact with the animals. Attitudes towards negative behaviour (hitting, shouting) during handling are independent of attitudes towards animals. Most farmers underline human contact followed by quality of the facilities for improving ease of handling. Surprisingly, 28% of the farmers surveyed did not recognise the genetic traits as an important factor in ease of handling. Farmers seem open to improving handling, in particular through positive human contact. These results combined with existing scientific knowledge and additional observations of handling will be useful in defining future training programmes for improving the welfare of beef cattle.
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