Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Joao H.C. Costa

Second Advisor

Eric Vanzant


Individual differences impact animal responses to their environments and can be observed with animal personality (stable behavioral differences with populations) and food neophobia (avoidance of unfamiliar feeds). These individual differences can influence cattle performance and welfare. Precision technologies, such as automatic feeding systems (AFS) and accelerometers continuously measure feeding behaviors and activity and may allow us to relate individual differences to behaviors in the home environment. Therefore, the first objective was to determine if food neophobia was associated with feeding behaviors measured by AFS. Food neophobia was associated with rewarded visits to the AFS, but to no other feeding behaviors. The second objective was to determine if personality traits (PT) were associated with activity, feeding behavior, and average daily gain (ADG). The PT ‘active’ was associated with higher activity in the home environment, more starter consumed, and with greater ADG overall. The PT ‘explorative’ was associated with less starter consumed and lower ADG only during weaning. Finally, the last objective was to determine if PT were associated with the magnitude change in feeding behaviors and activity during stressful events, including weaning, dehorning, and disease. We found that the PT ‘fearful’, ‘active’, and ‘explorative’ were linked to the magnitude of behavioral changes during stressors, though these associations varied with stressor type. These studies provide evidence that individual differences in dairy calves relate to precision technology behaviors, solid feed intake, performance, and response to stressors. These studies highlight the importance of considering the individual for optimal welfare and performance of dairy cattle.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

The research for this dissertation was funded by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Grant, Project KY007100 at the University of Kentucky in 2020.

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Dairy Science Commons