When visiting a livestock farm, I always try to get a clear picture of the daily practice on the farm.

My working method consists of "observing, registering and (together with the herdsman-manager) analyzing and evaluating.


It is interesting to see and hear how the herdsman-manager reacts to and thinks about their livestock.

The interaction between people and their cattle gives me a lot of objective information.


A good starting point for analysis is the level of stress reactions in livestock. 

Stress reactions are in fact, expressions of fear.



* as a potential danger,

* not interesting,

* "feeding machine on two legs",

* or as an ally and as a social partner.


In practice, I see significant differences in production levels achieved by livestock farmers.

Even within the same types of farms, management style, nutrition, breeding, etc.

Also here, stress reactions influence the final production results. 

Stress not only lowers resistance to diseases, but also reduces milk production and weight gain!


A good example is the differences in total milking time and total milk yield between one milker and another on the same dairy farm.

Managers of dairy farms who work with employees will recognize this and see it reflected in the daily production results.

A negative attitude of the milker is directly reflected in a negative behavior of the animal.

The result is a decrease in production and welfare.

Fear and stress cause (as a completely natural reaction), a negative behavior of the animal.

The milker therefore becomes less patient, which then manifests itself in an even worse attitude towards the animals.

This creates a (negative) vicious circle in the human-animal interaction.



Breaking this negative vicious circle can be done by changing the attitude of the milker. If the behavior of the milker-stockman changes positively, the behavior of the animals will also change positively in time.

Did you know that stress and fear play an important role in the development of mastitis and lameness in dairy cows?



Due to increasing robotization and automation within the (dairy) livestock farming, there is a reduced contact between humans and livestock.

If there is any contact at all, it is often a negative interaction that causes fear and stress in livestock.

Examples of this are: dehorning, claw treatment, vaccinating, loading, etc.


It is not surprising that with increasing automation and mechanization in livestock farming, the balance often tips in the negative direction. The result is increased anxiety and stress in livestock, and sometimes a decrease in animal welfare, safety, efficiency, yield and job satisfaction.

Source of pictogram: Hemsworth and Coleman (1998).  Source photo: Marga Fogt