Genetic improvement of behavior of Charolais cows

During the last decades, selection of beef cattle only included traits that were directly associated with profitability, such as production, reproduction, ease at birth and maternal contribution to calf growth. Today, behavior is included in selection objectives. Behavior is interesting since it is linked to safety and the ease of work of the breeder. The objective of this study was to estimate the heritability and genetic correlations for behavior traits in Charolais, using on-farm collected data. Farmers recorded aggressiveness during gestation, during the days following birth of the calf, and maternal behavior, providing a large data set. Three behavior traits were noted on a scale from 1 to 7 for 5 954 cows coming from 380 farms. The differences between farms explained up to 23% of the total phenotypic variance. This may be explained by different farming methods or by constant differences in the data recorded by the farmers. Aggressiveness on the days following birth of calves had a higher heritability (0.19) and genetic variation coefficient (11%) than the maternal behavior during gestation (h² = 0.06 and CVa = 4%) and maternal behavior (h² = 0.02 and CVa = 2%). The genetic correlations between aggressiveness and maternal behavior were high (from 0.71 to 0.98 absolute values), indicating that it is difficult to simultaneously improve maternal behavior and reduce aggressiveness. In conclusion, this study shows the opportunity for implementing selection against aggressiveness in the days following birth of calves by using a simple system of data collected by the breeder.