Infrared thermography as a non-invasive method for detecting fear-related responses of cattle to handling procedures
Two experiments were conducted to determine whether maximum eye temperature, measured using infrared thermography (IRT), could be a non-invasive technique for detecting responses of cattle to handling procedures. Experiment one used six crossbred heifers randomly assigned to two groups in a crossover design and subjected to i) being hit with a plastic tube on the rump and ii) being startled by the sudden waving of a plastic bag. Experiment two used 32 crossbred bulls randomly assigned to three treatments: i) control, restraint only; ii) electric prod, two brief applications of an electric prod or, iii) startled, as in experiment one, accompanied by shouting. Exit speed (m s–1) was recorded on release from the restraint. Maximum eye temperature was recorded continuously pre- and post-treatment. In experiment one, eye temperature dropped rapidly between 20 and 40 s following both treatments and returned to baseline between 60 and 80 s following hitting and between 100 and 120 s following startling. In experiment two, eye temperature dropped between 0 and 20 s, following both treatments, and returned to baseline by 180 s, following startling plus shouting, but did not return to baseline for five minutes following electric prod. Exit speed tended to be faster following the electric prod. In conclusion, IRT detected responses that were due possibly to fear and/or pain associated with the procedures and may therefore be a useful, non-invasive method for assessing aversiveness of handling practices to cattle.
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