I was in high school and dad and I were working sheep in the tall wooden corrals near the ranch house. I swore those woolly beggars were insane. We couldn’t move slow and quiet enough to keep them from bashing themselves against the solid fence in their attempt to escape. When thy failed, they ran headlong at us. I wasn’t worse who was going to get hurt worse, us or them.
Research has found that temperament determines economic success or setback in a livestock operation – even a hobby farm.
Personality affects seven areas:
1. Ease of handling
2. Safety of the animal and handler
3. Weight gain
4. Meat marbling
6. The ability to reproduce
7. Milk Production
1. Handling an animal with a nervous or disrespectful temperament and at the very least you might spend ten extra minutes a day trying to get your doe into the stanchion to be milked. Or worse, she might bust up equipment or fencing. Multiply the 10 minutes coaxing by a 9 to 10 month lactation times 2 milkings a day and you have wasted 91.5 to 101 hours in a 9 month period. Imagine what you could have accomplished. Compare this with a laid back attitude that calmly travels where they are led or better yet called.
2. Safety issues ensue if you have a high-strung animal for inevitably they will go through the fence, cut themselves up requiring a trip to the vet or at the very least time expenditure and supplies treating the wound – a guaranteed loss of profit margin. Worse yet if your cow weighing 1300 pounds is over protective and takes after the ranch hand on a four-wheeler sending him to the hospital. The hand was lucky he wasn’t killed. The cow wisely ended up at auction that week. Accidents happen on occasion. I get that. But if you keep a bad temperamental animal, you are asking for trouble. Besides, ornery or nervous animals have ornery or nervous babies. My experience leads me to believe it is sometimes genetic and definitely taught by the mother. The result is the same, an increase in animals of poor dispositions and of course trouble.
3. An anxious animal that is too busy inspecting their surroundings and reacting to threats whether real or imagined consumes less feed and this equates to less weight gain. Also an animal which frequently drives off others in order to establish dominance eats less and lowers the weight gain of the surrounding animals.
4. An animal who has an over active fright or flight button produces a larger amount of cortisol. This stress response burns up energy, muscle, and lowers the fat level and thickness of the meat. This means a smaller carcass to sell or eat. Keep in mind that the marbling is where most of the favor comes from. It also gives your your moisture retention while cooking and tenderness.
5. An upset animal’s meat becomes more acidic and an acidic environment is one which disease thrives. Simply put, more temperamental animals are sick more often. When disease is present, the risks of it spreading to the whole herd increase.
6. Temperamental animals have a higher cortisol level which has been linked to fewer pregnancies. I would guess this also means that animals that typically have multiple offspring at one time, such as goats, would have a single versus twins or triplets.
7. To a degree, the more an animal eats of quality feed, the more milk they will produce. Nervous animals divert available energy stores to produce cortisol instead of milk. in my observation, I’ve noticed that temperamental animals have a large variance in production depending on their stress level at any given time and the amount stays down for a period of time as they recover.
I’ve always believed an animal’s temperament is critical to their production levels and in how they affect other animals. A doe with a sweet nature always gave me twins but when sold to an owner who had a doe that’s a bully gave her singles. I’ve never understood why people keep trouble makers but then I am a problem solver. Just how bit of a deal disposition of an animal was, I did not fully understand until now. Then I watched a show on Netflix and one cattle owner mentioned that temperament was critical to the quality of the meat his cattle produced. Curious, I began researching. Wow, what an eye opener.
Naturally we put personality as a high priority in our chickens, goats, rabbits, and beef, because four of our young granddaughters reside her most of the week and the animals are an important factor in stabilizing their emotions in their tumultuous world. They spend hours outside with them. Our choices in livestock have made life less complicated and more pleasant. Besides, nothing is cuter than watching your husband haul feed off to the beef in a wheelbarrow trailed by our doe, Comedy, and four roosters behind her. He has a faithful following, each placidly waiting for their turn for attention.