student profile: Miss Ali Green


Thesis work

Thesis title: Investigation of dairy cattle vocal behaviour and its application for the Australian dairy industry

Supervisors: Ian JOHNSTON , Cameron CLARK

Thesis abstract:

Vocalisations are commonly expressed by gregarious animals, including cattle, as a form of short and long distance communication. They can provide conspecifics with meaningful information about the physiology, affective state and physical attributes of the caller. In cattle, calls are individually distinct meaning they assist cows in identifying specific individuals in the herd. Consequently, there is potential for these vocalisations to be acoustically analysed to make inferences about how individual animals or herds are coping with their external surroundings, and then act on these signals to improve feed conversion efficiency, reproductive efficiency and welfare. In the case of dairy farming, where herd sizes are expanding and farmers are becoming more reliant on technologies to assist in the monitoring of cattle, the study of vocal behaviour could provide an objective, cost effective and non-invasive alternative to traditional measures of welfare. The purpose of this research is to qualitatively characterise the vocalisations of Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle in different emotional contexts including partial and full social isolation, feed anticipation and feed frustration, oestrus, parturition and calf separation. Further, this research aims to determine the relationship between vocalisations, other behaviours such as body position and physiology, in particular heart rate. This research will improve our knowledge of cattle vocal communication and suggests that with further analysis, acoustic monitoring could help decipher cattle requirements and improve on-farm management.

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