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The influence of climatic conditions on physiological and behavioural parameters in dairy cows kept in open stables

  • M. Zähner (a1), L. Schrader (a2), R. Hauser (a1), M. Keck (a3), W. Langhans (a2) and B. Wechsler (a1)...


This study aimed to assess whether cows are able to cope with the range of climatic conditions they are exposed to in open stables on commercial farms in central Europe. On each of four farms, ten lactating cows were observed over a total of five weeks in winter, spring and summer. Based on continuous measurements of air temperature (–13·8 to 28·7ºC) and relative air humidity (0·26 to 0·99), a mean value of a temperature humidity index (THI) was calculated for each farm and each observation day for night and day.

THI had significant effects on skin temperature and body surface temperature (infra-red thermography) both during night and day. Rectal temperature, duration of lying and cortisol concentration in the milk was significantly affected by THI during the day but not during the night. Heart rate and frequency of lying did not significantly covary with THI. Differences between farms and interactions between THI and farm were significant for most parameters. These results suggest that the climatic conditions during the day induced stronger thermoregulatory responses than the conditions during the night. Within the measured range of climatic conditions the cows were hardly exposed to severe cold or heat stress.


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