A symposium held recently at Texas A&M University in College Station examined the effects of stress on human, animal and plant health.

The symposium was hosted by the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society.

Dr. Ron Randel, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow, Overton, provided one of several presentations representing agriculture. Randel’spresentation, which focused on livestock temperament, was titled, “Temperament is Linked with Stress Responsiveness and is Controlled Genetically.”

“In our research, we’ve clearly shown that temperament and stress responsiveness are linked,” he said. “It’s a heritable trait. It’s a trait that’s quite important from an economic viewpoint to beef producers in Texas and the rest of the world.”

Randel said beef cattle producers can use “simple and effective selective tools” on their home ranch to evaluate cattle for temperament. That may not be just selecting the calmest animals, “but removing the most temperamental animals in herd. These temperamental animals have reduced growth rate, tougher carcasses, less consumer satisfaction with meat cuts and costs more to get them to the slaughter weights.”

Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, delivered the keynote address. He said the same hormones that fish, birds and reptiles secrete during a crisis are the same hormones a student secretes with getting stressed by an exam.

“If you do this chronically, you are going to get sick,” he said.

That’s why it’s so important to keep stress under control and keep things in perspective, he said.

Symposium organizers were Dr. David Threadgill, director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society at Texas A&M, and Dr. Tom Welsh, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow and physiology reproduction section leader in the department of animal science at Texas A&M. Both are based in College Station.