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Physiological responses of feedlot heifers provided access to different levels of shade

  • T. M. Brown-Brandl (a1), C. G. Chitko-McKown (a1), R. A. Eigenberg (a1), J. J. Mayer (a2), T. H. Welsh (a3), J. D. Davis (a4) and J. L. Purswell (a5)...


Heat stress has a significant impact on all livestock and poultry species causing economic losses and animal well-being concerns. Providing shade is one heat-abatement strategy that has been studied for years. Material selected to provide shade for animals greatly influences the overall stress reduction provided by shade. A study was conducted to quantify both the environment and animal response, when cattle had no shade access during summertime exposure or were given access to shade provided by three different materials. A total of 32 Black Angus heifers were assigned to one of the four treatment pens according to weight (eight animals per pen). Each pen was assigned a shade treatment: No Shade, Snow Fence, 60% Aluminet Shade Cloth and 100% Shade Cloth. In the shaded treatment pens, the shade structure covered ~40% of the pen (7.5 m2/animal). Animals were moved to a different treatment every 2 weeks in a 4×4 Latin square design to ensure each treatment was applied to each group of animals. Both environmental parameters and physiological responses were measured during the experiment. Environmental parameters included dry-bulb temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, black globe temperature (BGT), solar radiation (SR) and feedlot surface temperature. Animal response measurements included manual respiration rate (RRm), electronic respiration rate (RRe), vaginal temperature (body temperature (BT)), complete blood count (CBC) and plasma cortisol. The environmental data demonstrated changes proportional to the quality of shade offered. However, the animal responses did not follow this same trend. Some of the data suggest that any amount of shade was beneficial to the animals. However, Snow Fence may not offer adequate protection to reduce BT. For some of the parameters (BT, CBC and cortisol), 60% Aluminet and 100% Shade Cloth offers similar protection. The 60% Aluminet lowered RRe the most during extreme conditions. When considering all parameters, environmental and physiological, 60% Aluminet Shade Cloth offered reductions of BGT, SR, feedlot surface temperature and the best (or equal to the best) overall protection for the animals (RRe, RRm, BT, blood parameters).


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