Important behaviors to beef cattle production include reactions to processing through a squeeze chute, maternal instincts at calving, newborn calf vigor, bull serving capacity, and foraging behavior. Because these are distinctly different behaviors, different strategies are necessary to quantify differences among animals.
Among the most important of behavioral traits, temperament reflects the ease with which animals respond to handling, treatment, and routine management. Animals with disposition problems are a safety risk to handlers, themselves, and other animals in the herd. Disposition affects handling equipment requirements, operation liability exposure, Beef Quality Assurance, and performance.
The docility score provided below is designed to subjectively evaluate differences in disposition when animals are processed through the squeeze chute. Because an animal‘s behavior can be influenced by past experiences, scoring should be conducted at weaning or yearling ages. This will reduce the extent to which current behavior has been influenced by prior handling experiences. Scores should be collected while calves are restrained with headgates but without having motion restricted by squeeze.
Score 1 – Docile. Mild disposition. Gentle and easily handled. Stands and moves slowly during processing. Undisturbed, settled, somewhat dull. Does not pull on headgate when in chute. Exits chute calmly.
Score 2 – Restless. Quieter than average, but may be stubborn during processing. May try to back out of chute or pull back on headgate. Some flicking of tail. Exits chute promptly.
Score 3 – Nervous. Typical temperament is manageable, but nervous and impatient. A moderate amount of struggling, movement and tail flicking. Repeated pushing and pulling on headgate. Exits chute briskly.
Score 4 – Flighty (Wild). Jumpy and out of control, quivers and struggles violently. May bellow and froth at the mouth. Continuous tail flicking. Defecates and urinates during processing. Frantically runs fence line and may jump when penned individually. Exhibits long flight distance and exits chute wildly.
Score 5 – Aggressive. May be similar to Score 4, but with added aggressive behavior, fearfulness, extreme agitation, and continuous movement which may include jumping and bellowing while in chute. Exits chute frantically and may exhibit attack behavior when handled alone.