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Human-Animal Interactions in Dairy Buffalo Farms

1
Scuola di Scienze Agrarie, Forestali, Alimentari ed Ambientali, Università degli Studi della Basilicata, Via dell’Ateneo Lucano 10, 85100 Potenza, Italy
2
Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Via Università 133, 80055 Portici, NA, Italy
3
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Faculty of Science and Technology, Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 246; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050246
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 18 April 2019 / Accepted: 12 May 2019 / Published: 16 May 2019
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Simple Summary

The quality of the human-animal relationship plays a central role in determining animal welfare. In this study, we assessed the relationship between stockperson behavior and buffalo behavior. In particular, during milking, we recorded the behavior of stockpeople in terms of quality and quantity of interactions, and we recorded the behavior of animals in terms of restlessness, whereas at the feeding place, we measured the avoidance distance. Avoidance distance of an animal can be defined as the distance to which the animal will allow an unknown person to approach before moving to the side or away. We found that a high percentage of negative stockperson interactions (shouting, talking impatiently, slapping, and handling forcefully) were associated with a high avoidance distance at the feeding place and restlessness during milking. Therefore, appropriate stockpeople training should be conducted to improve the human-animal relationship with positive effects on animal welfare, productivity, and stockpeople safety.

Abstract

This study aimed to assess the relationship between stockperson behavior and buffalo behavior. The research was carried out in 27 buffalo farms. The behavior of stockpeople and animals during milking and the avoidance distance at the feeding place were recorded. Recordings were repeated within one month to assess test-retest reliability. A high degree of test-retest reliability was observed for all the variables with Spearman rank correlation coefficients (rs) ranging from 0.578 (p = 0.002, df = 25) for the number of kicks performed during milking to 0.937 (p < 0.001, df = 25) for the percentage of animals moving when approached by ≤ 0.5 m. The number of negative stockperson interactions correlated positively with the number of kicks during milking (rs = 0.421, p < 0.028, df = 25) and the percentage of animals injected with oxytocin (rs = 0.424, p < 0.027), whereas the percentage of negative stockperson interactions correlated positively with the percentage of buffaloes moving when approached at a distance >1 m (rs = 0.415, p < 0.031, df = 25). In a subsample of 14 farms, milk yield was correlated positively with the number of positive interactions (rs = 0.588, p < 0.027, df = 12) and correlated negatively with the number of steps performed by the animals during milking (rs = −0.820, p < 0.001, df = 12). This study showed that the quality of stockpeople interactions may affect buffalo behavior and production. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy buffalo; human-animal relationship; animal behavior; test-retest reliability; avoidance distance; milk production; animal welfare dairy buffalo; human-animal relationship; animal behavior; test-retest reliability; avoidance distance; milk production; animal welfare
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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MDPI and ACS Style

Napolitano, F.; Serrapica, F.; Braghieri, A.; Masucci, F.; Sabia, E.; De Rosa, G. Human-Animal Interactions in Dairy Buffalo Farms. Animals 2019, 9, 246.

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