Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Animal Science


Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton

Committee Member

A. Hayden Brown

Second Committee Member

Kellye E. Pfalzgraf

Third Committee Member

Charles F. Rosenkrans

Fourth Committee Member

Karen D. Christensen


Cattle balking, Cattle behavior, Cattle temperament, Cattle handling, Cattle welfare, Cattle well-being


Temperament in cattle is often defined as the reactivity to human handling or novel environments. Temperament differences have been shown among breed-type categories, within breed types, among crossbreds, and between sexes. Temperament tests are typically completed at weaning time on beef cattle, and rarely on fed Holstein steers for beef production. Balking behavior, or cease in forward motion, in the cattle working facility can pose welfare issues as the electric prod use to coerce movement is implemented. Three observational field projects were designed to evaluate balking behavior incidence in unknown breed-types at the processing plant, Holstein steers in the feedlot and processing plant, and Angus and Hereford-Angus crossbred steers over their lifetime. Objectives of the processing plant study were to determine if cattle of certain coat colors or characteristic markings, or sex, had an effect on balking behavior, and if balking behavior had carcass implications. In 6,510 observations at a slaughter plant, Holstein steers balked more (P < 0.05) at entry to the restrainer than all other colors, which balked similarly. Heifers balked more (P < 0.05) than steers, while mixed pens of heifers and steers balk intermediately. Neither the presence of horns nor Bos indicus influence affected balking behavior. The feedlot source affected (P < 0.05) balking score, pen weight, and dressing percentage. In the fed Holstein steer project, responses to handling in the feedlot and at the plant showed no association of balking at the plant to individual hot carcass weight; therefore, no negative carcass economic effects. Project three allowed assessment of behavior over time in Angus and Hereford-Angus crossbred steers, and also to determine if genetic polymorphisms affected behavior or carcass weight. In Angus and Hereford-Angus crossbred steers, the Hereford-Angus crossbred steers balked more (P < 0.05) than Angus steers, yet Angus steers reacted more (P < 0.05) to restraint in the chute than Hereford-Angus steers. Exit velocity did not differ by breed-type. Genetically, polymorphisms in the heat shock protein 70 gene promoter region of those same steers affected behavioral responses to handling, specifically in balking and behavior in the chute.