Beef Species Symposium I: Cattle Adapted to Tropical/Subtropical Environments
Bos indicus and B. taurus are two different subspecies that differ in reproductive physiology, nutritional requirements, social behavior, digestive system, and body composition. A fundamental step in meeting the increasing global demand for protein on a planet experiencing climate change while addressing environmental stewardship is to identify management practices optimized for B. indicus-influenced cattle reared in the growing subtropical/tropical regions of the planet. Bos indicus-influenced cattle, are typically managed in subtropical/tropical regions utilizing practices developed and validated for B. taurus breeds in temperate environments. Little is known about the behavioral profile of B. indicus. Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), lameness, and bulling are three welfare and productivity issues that require behavioral evaluation to identify and treat. Little is known regarding lameness in feedlot cattle, irrespective of breed, but cattle are prey animals designed to mask illness and pain. Therefore, characterizing species-specific behavioral indicators of discomfort are paramount to early detection and treatment of these afflictions. B. indicus cattle are more gregarious than B. taurus and have more excitable temperaments; thus, they are more susceptible to stress, may have greater difficulty coping, and may be more adept at masking health issues. These cattle display different social behaviors compared to B. taurus counterparts, which may contribute to differences in production efficiency and outcomes. Gaining an understanding of the behavioral and social aspects of these animals, and understanding their biological thresholds regarding thermoregulation, disease resistance, transportation resiliency, and the human-animal interaction will provide foundational data for developing appropriate stewardship practices. Beef cattle, irrespective of what sector they are managed (e.g., feedlot, cow-calf, pasture housed), are directly affected by weather. Therefore, as the climate changes, we must begin to increase our use of animals that are better suited to these environmental conditions, and within that framework increase our understanding of their species-specific welfare needs.