Opportunities (and challenges) in dairy cattle cognition research: A key area needed to design future high welfare housing systems
The ability of cattle to adapt to husbandry systems and routines is crucial for the functionality of the production. However, this ability can be compromised by our limited knowledge of their cognitive abilities, which may result in suboptimal husbandry and management standards. In this scoping review, we highlight three key topics of cattle cognition research that are currently understudied. We elucidate promising research areas from an industry point of view: transmission of information from
... ow to calf, mechanisms to attenuate fear, and processes involved in the human-cattle relationship. We review the currently available literature on all three topics and highlight potential pitfalls as well as promising future research questions. Future studies should focus on elucidating what and how much calves learn from their dam during prolonged cow-calf contact in dairy cattle. Such information could constitute an important part of the discussion of whether to keep cows and calves together for a longer time after calving in the dairy industry. Fear in the cattle group might be lowered by the use of calm companions and future studies could uncover if attenuation of fear might even be induced by conditioning positive experiences of cattle with unrelated stimuli e.g. odours. Lastly, the human-cattle relationship might benefit from utilising the already established training regimes from other species, e.g. positive reinforcement training or target training, which may have the potential to decrease risk of injury during handling for the cow and handler.