Animal Industry Report

Extension Number

ASL R2857



Summary and Implications

The quality of animal-human interactions is important, as negative interactions may result in an animal being difficult to handle. Halter breaking is used as a means to make the process of moving and securing a calf easier, and theoretically should minimize stress for both the animal and handler. There are numerous ways that people can halter break a calf, for example tying up the cattle in barns for a defined period of time, touching the cattle for the first time using combs or using a “Talk and Touch” method. Anecdotal evidence shows with halter breaking that cattle have a side preference and it has been hypothesized that this side preference may be related to the side that vaccinations were given. Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine if a calf indicates a side approachability preference during halter breaking that is dependent on vaccination side. A total of 20 crossbred Angus/Simmental steers from Iowa State University’s (ISU) breeding herd were used. Steers were between 7 and 9 mo of age, averaging 272 kg BW. Steer was the experimental unit. A 2 (left or right neck side for vaccination) x 2 (left or right approach side) factorial arrangement of treatments was compared. One month after weaning, each steer had a nylon halter affixed to his head 2 d prior to the steer side preference test. Each handler was blind to vaccination side. Approach side for each steer had been randomly assigned prior to the beginning of the trial. Halter breaking methodology was conducted over five defined steps. Students were asked at the end of the 1-h period to conclude if the calf had a left, right, or no side preference. Data was analyzed using PROC GLIMMIX for the effects of vaccination side on subsequent halter breaking side preference. There was no difference observed between halter breaking side preference in relation to vaccination side (P > 0.05). In conclusion, with this data set there was no halter breaking preference side related to vaccines given, indicating that the calves did not negatively associate humans with restraint and injections. This is helpful in understanding animal/human interactions as well as ability to approach an animal after vaccinations. This also implies that strategies such as the “Talk and Touch” method are useful in keeping calves calm and comfortable during halter breaking

Copyright Holder

Iowa State University