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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Jan;93(1):125-33. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2416.

The amount of shade influences the behavior and physiology of dairy cattle.

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  • 1AgResearch Ltd, Private Bag 3123, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand. Karin.schutz@agresearch.co.nz


The objective was to understand how the amount of shade (shade cloth blocking 99% of solar radiation) influenced the behavior and physiology of Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle managed on pasture. We compared behavior, body temperature, and respiration rate of cattle provided with 1 of 3 treatments for 5 d: access to 2.4m(2) or 9.6m(2) shade/cow, or no shade (n=4 groups/treatment, 10 animals/group). Behavioral observations were carried out between 1000 and 1550h. Cows spent more than twice as much time in the larger shade (24 vs. 50% of observations for 2.4m(2) and 9.6m(2) shade/cow, respectively, SED: 1.7%) and engaged in fewer aggressive interactions when more shade was provided (10.7 vs. 3.2 aggressive interactions/m(2) during 5.8h of observation for 2.4m(2) and 9.6m(2) shade/cow, respectively, SED: 3.16 interactions/m(2)). Time around the water trough increased when little or no shade was provided (11, 5, and 2% of observations within 4.5m of water trough for no shade, 2.4m(2), and 9.6m(2) shade/cow, SED: 2.4%). Respiration rate was higher when cows had less shade available (62, 57, and 51 breaths/min for no shade, 2.4m(2), and 9.6m(2) shade/cow, respectively, SED: 2.1 breaths/min). All cows used the shade more when 9.6m(2) shade/cow was provided; simultaneous use was observed in 15 versus 0% of observations in the 9.6m(2) and 2.4m(2) treatments on the warmest day, respectively. Weather conditions influenced both the behavioral and physiological responses, and these changes were more pronounced when less or no shade was available. Cows spent more time in shade and less time lying with increasing heat load. In addition, aggressive interactions in the shade, time around the water trough, mean body temperature, and respiration rate increased with environmental heat load. Our findings highlight the importance of determining and providing an effective amount of shade to cattle.

Copyright 2010 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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