Use of a food neophobia test to characterize personality traits of dairy calves

Joao H.C. Costa, Heather W. Neave, Daniel M. Weary, Marina A.G. von Keyserlingk

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9 Scopus citations


Food neophobia, i.e. the avoidance of novel foods, is common in ruminants and may provide a biologically relevant and practical way to test individual responses to novelty or challenge. We aimed to determine if behavioural responses in a food neophobia test (exposure to a novel total mixed ration) reflected boldness and exploratory personality traits derived from 3 traditional tests (open field, novel human and novel object) in dairy calves. We performed two Principal Component Analyses, one using behaviours from 3 traditional tests (3 factors: ‘Bold’, ‘Exploratory’ and ‘Active’), and one using behaviours from the food neophobia test (3 factors: ‘Eating’, ‘Inspecting’, and ‘Avoidance’). A regression analysis determined if individual factor scores from the food neophobia test predicted factor scores from the traditional tests. Contrary to our expectations, ‘Avoidance’ (latencies to approach and eat the novel food) did not predict boldness trait, and the factors ‘Inspecting’ (time spent inspecting food and empty buckets) and ‘Eating’ (time spent eating food and total intake) did not predict exploration trait, but they did predict active trait. These results suggest that the food neophobia test in our study resulted in context-specific behaviours, or that behavioural responses to a novel food present different underlying personality traits. The application of food neophobia to assess specific or generalized personality traits of dairy calves deserves further work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7111
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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