DOI: 10.3390/ani14010135 ISSN: 2076-2615

Calming Hungarian Grey Cattle in Headlocks Using Processed Nasal Vocalization of a Mother Cow

Ádám Lenner, Zoltán Lajos Papp, Csaba Szabó, István Komlósi
  • General Veterinary
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Sound analysis is an important field of research for improving precision livestock farming systems. If the information carried by livestock sounds is interpreted correctly, it could be used to improve management and welfare assessment in this field. Therefore, we hypothesized that the nasal vocalization of a mother cow could have a calming effect on conspecifics. The nasal vocalization in our study was recorded from a mother cow (not part of the test herd) while it was licking its day-old calf. The raw sound was analyzed, cleaned from noises, and the most representative vocalization was lengthened to two minutes. Thirty cows having calves were randomly selected from eighty Hungarian grey cattle cows. Two test days were selected, one week apart; the weather circumstances in both days were similar. The herd was collected in a paddock, and the test site (a restraining crate with a headlock) was 21 m away from them. The cows from the herd were gently moved to the restraining crate, and, after the installation of the headlock, Polar® heart rate monitors were fixed on the animals. The recording of the RR intervals was carried out for two minutes. On day one of the test, the processed nasal sound was played to every second cow during the heart rate monitoring. When the sound ended, the heart rate monitor was removed. On test day two, the sound and no sound treatments were switched among the participating cows. At the end of the measurement, the headlock was opened, letting the animals out voluntarily, and a flight test was performed along a 5 m distance. The time needed to pass the 5 m length was measured with a stopwatch and divided by the distance. The RR intervals were analyzed with the Kubios HRV Standard (ver. 3.5.0) software. The following data were recorded for the entire measurement: average and maximum heart rate; SD1 and SD2; pNN50; VLF, LF, and HF. The quasi-periodic signal detected in the sound analyses can hardly be heard, even when it is enhanced to the maximum. This can be considered a vibration probably caused by the basis of articulation, such as a vibration of the tongue, for example. The SD2/SD1 ratio (0.97 vs. 1.07 for the animals having no sound and sound played, respectively, p = 0.0110) and the flight speed (0.92 vs. 1.08 s/m for the animals having no sound and sound played, respectively, p = 0.0409) indicate that the sound treatment had a calming effect on the restrained cows. The day of the test did not influence any of the measured parameters; therefore, no effect of the routine was observed. The yes–no sequence of the sound treatment significantly reduced the pNN50 and flight speed values, suggesting a somewhat more positive association with the headlock and the effectiveness of the processed nasal sound. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that, by means of sound analyses, not only information about individuals and the herd can be gathered but that, with proper processing, the sound obtained can be used to improve animal welfare.

More from our Archive