sealPurdue News

September 1997

Just how content is that cow?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- At Purdue University, Julie Morrow-Tesch is developing video-based guides that will help students, producers and researchers figure out how content their animals are. Morrow-Tesch reported her work in July at the national meeting of the American Society of Animal Science.

Livestock producers want their animals to be content and at ease, not just because it's humane, but because contented, unstressed animals are better meat producers. But it's not always easy to tell if an animal is happy, says Morrow-Tesch, an animal scientist with the Agricultural Research Service.

Traditionally, researchers and producers have tried to determine an animal's level of contentment by observing and describing animal behavior. However, two people watching one cow or hog may rate the animal's behavior very differently. Just as field guides help bird watchers identify birds, Morrow-Tesch's video-based guides will help researchers identify animal behaviors and standardize their contentment ratings.

The video guide also will be useful for professors teaching animal behavior courses. Researchers trying to rate an animal's behavior will compare it to video clips in the guide, or they will videotape an animal and feed the video into Morrow-Tesch's video-based computer guide. The computer guide will automatically track, analyze and rate animal activity on the video clips.

Morrow-Tesch says the video guide is now private and used only for research, but she plans to make it available within six months to anyone who has access to the Internet.

Contact: Morrow-Tesch, (765) 494-8022; e-mail,

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