Journal of Animal Behaviour and Biometeorology
Journal of Animal Behaviour and Biometeorology
Research Article Open Access

The impact of training on stockpersons’ behaviour and cows’ fear response

Fernanda Victor Rodrigues Vieira, Robson Mateus Freitas Silveira, Guilherme Amorim Franchi, Iran José Oliveira da Silva

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In tropical developing regions, such as Brazil, animal welfare (AW) has been gaining increasing attention, while stockperson job satisfaction, which is intimately related to AW, is often neglected. This research evaluated the effects of AW training on stockpersons’ attitudes and behaviour towards dairy cows and the impact on cows' fear of humans. Ten dairy farms with pasture-based systems where animal handlers are farm owners or employees were selected from three regions of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The experiment consisted of four stages: 1) Selection of pasture-based dairy farms; 2) First assessment of attitudes, human behaviour, and cows’ flight distance (day one – D1); 3) Pre-assessment of owners' and employees’ AW knowledge, and training (day two – D2); and 4) Final assessment of attitudes, human behaviour, cows’ flight distance, and owners' and employees’ AW knowledge (day three – D3), focusing on the training’s effects on human attitudes and behaviour, and cows’ fear of humans. Among owners and employees, positive attitudes were more often expressed, and negative attitudes were less frequent on day three (D3) after training. Nevertheless, the expression of positive attitudes by farm owners was less common compared to employees. Stockpersons manifested positive behaviour more frequently at D3 than on day one (D1), before training, in contrast to negative behaviour at D1. Taking all cow handling observations together, including those before and after training, the greatest percentage of negative behaviour was at the time of moving the cows from the holding area to the milking stalls (18% of all observed human behaviour), followed by moving cows out of the milking parlour (17%), positioning cows for milking (15%) and placing/removing the milking suction devices (1%). Positive human behaviour usually occurred when moving cows from the holding area to the milking stalls (21%) and during the positioning of cows for milking (19%). After training, cows’ flight distances decreased. In conclusion, the training may have promoted positive human behaviour and reduced the number of fearful cows. Therefore, AW training may positively influence human behaviour, technical expertise, the reduction of fear in cows, and stockpersons' attitudes.


animal welfare, attitudes, human-animal relationship, positive animal handling, training


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