14 February, 2014


On Thursday 14 November 2013 the reference group for the standards and guidelines for animals in rodeos met to discuss a draft circulated earlier by the writing group. A number of controversial aspects of the draft were discussed and one that elicited quite divergent views was calf roping. The welfare representatives expressed the opinion that calf roping was very stressful to calves and asked for the event to be banned. The industry representatives on the other hand did not believe it is stressful, particularly to calves that have been conditioned to the procedures. There was also discussion about the most appropriate weight for calves in the event. The industry representatives argued that smaller calves (100-115kg) were less likely to be injured whereas animal welfare representatives thought slightly heavier animals (200kg) were more robust and therefore less likely to experience pain and stress.

A search of the literature found a few articles expressing welfare objections to the event (Larson, 2002a; 2002b; Rollin, 2005; Webster, 2000; Taylor, 2002) but the evidence cited was basically anthropomorphic in nature. For example, Webster (2000 p.158) writes that calves are “isolated, forcibly thrown down and trussed up” and goes on to say this is clearly an “aversive experience.” Some authors quote injury rates as evidence of the negative experience calves suffer participating in these events (Larson, 1998; Rollin, 2004) but the figures are challenged by others (Furman, 2002; Cobb, 2002). Rollin (2005) also raises ethical concerns with entertainment that involves calves suffering stress and pain.

Only one study (Ferguson et al., 2013) was located that attempted to measure the stress experienced by calves during roping events. In this study cortisol concentrations were measured pre- and post-event in 4-6 month old calves (104-136kg) which had been preconditioned to roping for 6 weeks. No significant difference in cortisol levels were found in any of the treatment groups including the control groups, and weight gain was the same across groups. The conclusion was that roping does not increase cortisol levels in acclimated calves but the study could not comment on how stressful the acclimation period was.

The effect of transporting, scoring and roping on cortisol concentrations in acclimated roping calves
C.E. Ferguson*, A.L. Greathouse, B. Pousson, K. Comeaux and J. Browning
Department of Agricultural Sciences, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA, USA

(Received 8 November 2011; final version received 15 May 2012)
This study evaluated the effect of transportation, scoring and roping activities on cortisol concentration in acclimated calves. A total of 16 cross-bred Longhorn calves between 4 and 6 months old and ranging in weight between 104 and 136 kg were used. These calves were preconditioned to roping for 6 weeks prior to study and were randomly allotted to treatments based on a Latin Square experimental design with treatments as follows; remaining at farm (farm), transport to arena (transport), twice passing through roping chute but not being roped (score) and twice being roped and tied (rope). Blood samples were collected via jugular vena puncture, received respective treatment and then second blood samples were collected. This experiment was replicated twice (n 8 calves, per year), and calves were roped twice per day for 3 days per week during the study. The data was analysed by replicate and by pooled data. The mean9SE pre-event and change in serum cortisol concentrations (mg/dL) were: farm (n 16), 4.590.9, 0.990.6; transport (n 16), 5.190.6, 0.990.8; score (n 16), 5.090.5, 1.690.4; rope (n 15) 4.990.6, 0.590.6. The cortisol concentration was elevated for pre-event samples during week 2 compared with week 4 and this suggests possibly a change in routine may have affected cortisol. However, treatment did not affect (PB0.05) change in cortisol concentration among calves; farm (0.990.6), transport (0.590.6), score (1.790.4), farm (0.990.8). Also, calves weight gain was not different (P0.05) between groups and averaged 0.32 kg/day, for year 2. These data indicate roping does not increase cortisol concentrations in acclimated calves.

To read the full study click on the link below:

The effect of transporting, scoring and roping on cortisol concentrations in acclimated roping calves


[ BACK ]