Kiwi scientists are exploring the emotions of livestock in pioneering research that could improve the way animals are farmed.
AgResearch scientist Gosia Zobel and her colleagues have been conducting a trial into the positive emotional states of dairy calves - the first of its kind in which the anticipation of the animals around access to different environments and opportunities for play was monitored.
The data collected was now being analysed, but the work had already thrown up some interesting early impressions.
"We want to understand from a scientific basis what the animals are feeling by their behaviour, as opposed to just saying for example 'look, the dog is wagging its tail, so it must be happy'," Zobel said.
In the dairy calf trial - a project run between AgResearch and the University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program - the animals spent periods of time in pens with different flooring and some featuring play items such as a rope.
A small yellow light would flash prior to access being given to the different pens, and the level of anticipation in the calves was monitored.
The level of anticipation at the sight of the flashing light, and the interaction with the play items, was much greater than expected by the researchers.
Zobel has also recently led a trial involving adult goats to look at their behaviour in more natural environments than they were used to.
"We are trying to figure out what would they do if left up to their own devices, and had no restrictions placed on them from a human system, how would they behave," she said.
"And then in the long run, how we could incorporate that into a human system."
For example, when given the opportunity, the goats chose to climb onto an elevated platform, play on it, and to sleep on and under the platform.
"They also chose to eat from a high feeder, about 1.5m off the ground.
"Normally they would eat their daily ration at floor level in a feed alley, but it turned out they actually ate more when it was elevated off the ground."
Zobel often speaks to farmers on the issues of animal welfare and behaviour, and has found it is something taken very seriously.
"I'm usually pleasantly surprised with not only how receptive farmers are to new ideas, but how often farmers ask questions that drive new research."