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Relationship between milk cortisol concentration and the behavioral characteristics of postpartum cows introduced to a new group

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The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between milk cortisol concentration (MC) and behavioral responses to stress. As a stress response, the behaviors of 37 postpartum cows were observed when they were introduced into a new group. Milk samples for MC measurement and milk trait data were collected on the test day every 2 months after calving. The best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) was estimated from each behavioral and milk trait data. Behavioral BLUP data were subjected to principal component (PC) analysis and three PCs were extracted. The first PC, with large loadings for eating and allogrooming, was positively correlated with milk yield. Therefore, individual differences in behaviors closely related with PC1 would have been unconsciously paid a lot of attention in terms of productivity. However, the second PC, with large loadings for drinking and self-grooming, uncorrelated with any milk traits, had a negative correlation with MC. The third PC, with large loadings for exploring, fighting and the frequency of agonistic behavior, was uncorrelated with all traits. Both PC2 and PC3 were independent of productivity, and individual differences in behaviors related with these PCs may be scarcely considered.
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Keywords: behavior; dairy cow; introduction; milk cortisol

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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