Calm calves appear to have a better response to vaccination at weaning than temperamental calves, says the Texas Ag Experiment Station. This better vaccination response means the calmer calves are less likely to develop sickness or die of disease.

Earlier research has shown cattle that speed out of the handling chute eat and gain less, and yield tougher steaks. The Texas A&M University (TAMU) study is one the first to look at the animal's immune response in relation to temperament.

TAMU animal scientist Ron Randel, working with other Texas and USDA researchers, divided 6- to 7-month-old Brahman bull calves from the Overton research center's 2004 spring calf crop into two groups: the calmest and the most temperamental. The calves were grouped based on their "exit velocity," the speed at which they exit a handling chute, and "pen scores," where visual observations about the animal's response to confinement and humans are recorded.

During the 11-week trial the team analyzed calves' blood samples for the antibody response specific to clostridial vaccinations. On the study's 6th day, both calf groups showed "significant" immune
response to the vaccination. But by the 6th week, the calm calves had a 50% greater antibody response than the temperamental calves.

After the booster shot on the 42nd day, the peak immunological response was delayed in the temperamental calves compared to the calm calves. Also, the temperamental calves' immune response decreased from day 49 to the end of the study. The calm calves' immune response didn't significantly decrease after the booster. At the end of the study, the calm calves had more than a 60% advantage in immune response.

"Not only did the calmer calves have a greater response to the vaccine, they did a better job of sustaining antibody levels previously produced," Randel says. "In addition to the benefits of increased vaccination response, the calm bull calves out-gained their more temperamental counterparts by more that 0.3 lbs./day over the length of the study."

For a news article on how animal temperament relates to tenderness of meat, see agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/ANSC/Apr0504a.htm.
-- Clint Peck