Effectiveness of »natural stockmanship« training in cattle
Abstract. The objective of this study was to investigate whether natural stockmanship training can be effective in the elimination of avoidance reactions by generating submissive behaviour in dairy cattle. The training session was divided into two procedures: natural stockmanship training focused on getting a submissive response to human approach; natural halter training focused on acceptance of stroking with a halter and fitting it. Both procedures were conducted on unrestrained animals by skilled trainer. Two tests were developed to assess the effectiveness of the method: »udder touching« testing natural stockmanship training and »halter-fitting« testing both natural stockmanship training and natural halter training. Training procedures followed the idea of employing natural behaviour of cattle (avoiding discomfort of pressure) to negative reinforcement conditioning (chasing away when an animal moved away) and habituation to trainer and training/testing arena. Sixty-three (n=63) animals from two barns were studied: 32 heifers and 31 cows followed by control group of 7 heifers and 11 cows. The approach developed proved to be an effective method of handling cattle: 93.7 % of animals completed »udder test« in an average 400.4 s and 75.8 % completed »halter fitting test« in an average 559.7 s compared to control group results: 77.8 % and 33.3 %, respectively. Animals responded with submission and avoidance distance was shortened to zero. Previous experience of being milked had a significant positive effect on »udder touching« test performance and duration but not »halter-fitting« test. No environmental impact was found and animals from both farms responded similarly.