Correlation between docility and reproductive success

Optimizing reproductive success in a cattle herd can be a difficult task to manage due to all the factors that play into the success or failure of each service. The weather, forage availability, and management decisions all play important roles, and that is before considering the biology of the cow and bull. In an effort to identify important factors to manage to improve reproductive success, researchers at Kansas State University looked at the effect of cattle disposition on the probability of pregnancy. While calmer dispositions have previously been correlated with higher meat quality, there is now reason to believe that disposition may have an effect on reproductive success.

An increase in chute score (more active/more vocal) significantly reduced the odds of pregnancy in one of the three cooperative herds in this study. Exit velocity from the chute was positively correlated with chute score, meaning that animals that get anxious in the chute, and exit at increased speed, have a decreased probability of settling to that service. Blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol were also positively correlated with exit velocity. Older, heavier animals tended to have calmer dispositions with reduced cortisol levels and lower chute scores. This study indicates that selecting and managing cattle to improve docility might not only improve a producer’s mental well-being, but could potentially improve the herd’s reproductive success. 

“Phenotypic relationships between docility and reproduction in Angus heifers” K. L. White, J. M. Bormann, K. C. Olson, J. R. Jaeger, S. Johnson, B. Downey, D. M. Grieger,* J. W. Waggoner, D. W. Moser, and R. L. Weaber Link

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