Behavioural and physiological responses of sheep of different breeds to supplementary feeding, social mixing and taming, in the context of transport


Three experiments investigated differences between sheep breeds in response to supplementary feeding and very close confinement with familiar and unfamiliar sheep; and differences between individuals in response to a taming procedure prior to transport in a trailer. The first two experiments were with a mixed flock of Clun Forest lambs and crossbred lambs from Orkney. An initial tendency to feed with others of the same breed diminished over 3 weeks. Responses of heart rate and salivary cortisol concentration when one sheep (the visitor) was penned in an enclosure of 1 m2 with three other sheep of the same or the other breed (the trio group), did not depend on whether the visitor and the trio group were of the same or different breed. Clun Forest sheep showed little response while Orkney sheep showed increased heart rate and some elevation of salivary cortisol concentration. In the third experiment, 34 Beulah Speckled Face ewes were divided into two groups one of which was subjected to a taming procedure over a period of 3 weeks. Response of salivary cortisol concentration to subsequent journeys of 2 h in a livestock trailer did not differ between tamed and untamed sheep. There were individual differences in the response to taming and this was correlated with the cortisol response during transport, in that those sheep which responded most to taming showed the least elevation during transport.