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J Dairy Sci. 2016 Mar;99(3):2169-2179. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-9795. Epub 2016 Jan 6.

Studying the relationship between on-farm environmental conditions and local meteorological station data during the summer.

Author information

1
Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1.
2
Strategic Solutions Group, Puslinch, Ontario, Canada, N0B 2J0.
3
Veterinary Science and Policy Group, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Fergus, Ontario, Canada, N1G 4Y2.
4
Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1. Electronic address: dkelton@uoguelph.ca.

Abstract

High ambient heat and humidity have profound effects on the production, health, profitability, and welfare of dairy cattle. To describe the relationship between summer temperature and relative humidity in the barn and determine the appropriateness of using meteorological station data as a surrogate for on-farm environmental monitoring, a study was conducted on 48 farms in Ontario, Canada, over the summer (May through September) of 2013. Within-barn environmental conditions were recorded using remote data loggers. These values were compared with those of the closest official meteorological station. In addition, farm-level characteristics and heat-abatement strategies were recorded for each farm. Environmental readings within the barn were significantly higher than those of the closest meteorological station; however, this relationship varied greatly by herd. Daily temperature-humidity index (THI) values within the barn tended to be 1 unit higher than those of the closest meteorological station. Numerically, 1.5 times more mean daily THI readings were in excess of 68 (heat stress threshold for lactating dairy cows) in the barn, relative to the closest meteorological station. In addition, tiestalls, herds that were allowed access to pasture, and herds that had no permanent cooling strategy for their cows had the highest mean and maximum daily THI values. Minimum daily THI values were almost 4 units higher for tiestall relative to freestall herds. Overall, due to farm-specific and unpredictable variability in magnitude of environmental differences between on-farm and meteorological station readings, researchers attempting to study the effects of environment on dairy cows should not use readings from meteorological stations because these will often underestimate the level of heat stress to which cows are exposed.

KEYWORDS:

dairy barn; heat stress; temperature-humidity index

PMID:
26778304
DOI:
10.3168/jds.2015-9795
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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