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J Dairy Sci. 1982 Aug;65(8):1544-55.

Attaining and measuring physical fitness in dairy cattle.


Research with dairy cows was to determine whether dairy cows in confinement are in poor physical condition, if programmed exercise improves physical fitness, and which physiological measures are most useful indicators of physical fitness. If maintenance of physiologic homeostasis when an animal is under a work load is a valid criterion of physical fitness, dairy cows in confinement are in poor physical condition, and physical fitness can be improved by programmed exercise. Walking cows at 4 km/h for a distance of 8 km daily for 5 days per wk for 8 wk prepartum improved their physical fitness. Useful hemic indicators of improved fitness were less increase in erythrocyte numbers and hemoglobin concentration and less decrease in oxygen tension, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid contents, and base excess than in poorly conditioned cattle under work load. Venous blood was satisfactory for these measurements. Also valued were heart and respiratory rates, except these rates being sensitive to extraneous disturbances may be less reliable.

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