Research explores mood and personality of farm animals

Rural Exchange 23/06/2018

New research is being done to explore the moods and personalities of farm animals.

Industry groups such as Dairy NZ are viewing this as an opportunity to conduct better animal welfare.

It is the latest work by AgResearch’s animal welfare team helping to expand the knowledge of livestock behaviour, at a time of growing consumer demand for strong welfare standards.

It’s very difficult to ask an animal how its feeling.

Past research has focused on measuring how animals feel pain, but this is the first research of its kind to look at measuring positive moods.

AgResearch scientist Dr Gosia Zobel told Rural Exchange that this kind of research is decades before its time.

“It’s very difficult to ask an animal how its feeling,” she said with a chuckle.

To address this inevitable hurdle, the AgResearch team looks at indirect measures of an animal’s feelings and moods. For example, the team is studying tiny micro-expressions that goats may display on their face that could hint at their mood.

“You can actually see really minute changes in facial structure,” Dr Zobel told RadioLIVE.

In one experiment, the researchers set the goats up in a room where they manufactured rain to fall from the ceiling. Apparently, they are not too keen on getting wet.

The goats are the measured through heart rate and slow-motion video of facial expressions, among others.

The research could be instrumental in adapting policy across the country to better suit animal welfare standards. 

Watch the full interview with Dr Gosia Zobel above.

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