Home About Browse Search

Mccrea, Kirste, 2019. The body language of dairy calves : investigating emotions through ear posture, tail posture, and stepping behaviour. Second cycle, A2E. Skara: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



While improving animal welfare has become an important task in both the
agricultural and scientific community, increased knowledge on positive emotions
in animals and on methods of assessing welfare are needed in order to continue
to move forward in this endeavour. Through understanding the connection
between the body language of animals and their emotional state, further progress
can be made. This study assessed the ear postures, tail postures, and stepping
behaviour of 16 dairy calves when exposed to four experimental stimuli expected
to elicit emotional states of varying valence and arousal levels, and a control.
The stimuli included feeding of concentrates, gentle stroking, the absence of
social interactions/stimuli, and spraying with water. Results were then compared
to body posture predictions based on previous research where ear and tail
postures of dairy cows during different activities were analyzed and plotted onto
an arousal/valence framework i.e. the dimensional model of core affect.
Predictions for the ear postures backward, asymmetric right, and asymmetric
left during a positive, low arousal emotional state showed a trend of being
supported. The backward and forward ear postures of calves may be more
influenced by changes in arousal, while the asymmetric right ear indicated an
emotional state of positive, high arousal. The highest occurrence of stepping
behaviour was displayed during the boredom stimulus, indicating that this
treatment was perceived as being of high arousal by the calves, rather than low
arousal as intended. Overall tail activity of the calves was low. No tail predictions
were confirmed, however, a new posture of a tucked tail seemed to be
representative of a negative, high arousal emotional state. Further research is
needed to determine the role that age, experience, and stimuli play in regards to
an animal’s emotional state and to determine the validity of using the
dimensional model of core affect to predict the body language and emotional
state of animals in varying situations.

Main title:The body language of dairy calves
Subtitle:investigating emotions through ear posture, tail posture, and stepping behaviour
Authors:Mccrea, Kirste
Supervisor:Keeling, Linda
Examiner:Yngvesson, Jenny
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2019
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:VM006 Animal Science - Master's Programme
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:emotions, body language, body posture, valence, arousal, ear posture, tail posture, stepping, dimensional model of core affect, behaviour
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal husbandry
Deposited On:14 Oct 2019 08:22
Metadata Last Modified:15 Oct 2019 01:01

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per year (since September 2012)

View more statistics