You are here: Home / Journal Articles / Assessment of welfare from physiological and behavioural responses of New Zealand dairy cows exposed to cold and wet conditions / About

Assessment of welfare from physiological and behavioural responses of New Zealand dairy cows exposed to cold and wet conditions

By J. R. Webster, M. Stewart, A. R. Rogers, G. A. Verkerk

View Resource (HTM)

Licensed under

Category Journal Articles

There is a need to assess the welfare of dairy cows that live outdoors under cold and wet conditions. This study combined a number of techniques to measure stress and make an assessment of welfare in this situation. Two groups often non-pregnant, non-lactating Holstein Friesian cows were exposed to a week of wind and rain (WR) or housed indoors (I) with pre- and post-treatment weeks indoors in a cross-over design. Wind and rain consisted of continual air movement (7.1 kph) using fans, water sprinkling for 15 min (3.0 mm) per hour, a mean temperature of 3.4 degrees C and wind chill of -0.3 degrees C Internal body temperature was recorded every ten min and behaviour for 16 h per day. Blood, faeces and infrared temperatures were sampled at 0800 h each morning during treatment weeks, and three times per week during pre- and post-treatment weeks. All cows were challenged with 2 ml Leptoshield Vaccine (CSL Animal Health, Australia) subcutaneously after 3 days of cold exposure to test immune responses. During WR, cows spent a greater proportion of time standing and less time lying down and eating than during I. Infrared temperatures were lower during WR than I in both dorsal and orbital (eye) regions. There was a distinct diurnal pattern of internal body temperature which had a greater amplitude during WR than I resulting from both a lower minimum and a higher maximum. The time of the minimum was 40 min later for WR than I. The overall mean body temperature was 0.07 degrees C higher in WR than I. There were greater increases in plasma and faecal cortisol during WR than I, respectively. Total T4 was higher during WR than I. Non-esterified fatty acid concentration was higher in the week following WR than I. Total white blood cell numbers were lower during WR than I. No treatment differences were found for creatine kinase or for tumour necrosis factor, heat shock protein 90, interleukin 6 or Interferon gamma expression in response to vaccination. In conclusion, this study applied a suite of stress measures to dairy cows exposed to extreme cold and wet conditions. Together, these measures indicated activation of the stress axis, physiological and behavioural adaptations to cold and a reduction in welfare. A number of these measures could be used to assess welfare under cold conditions on farms.

Date 2008
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 17
Issue 1
Pages 19-26
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Animal Behaviour & Welfare, AgResearch Ltd, Private Bag 3123, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adaptation
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal immunology
  5. Animal physiology
  6. Animal rights
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Australasia
  9. Blood
  10. Body temperature
  11. Cattle
  12. Cells
  13. Commonwealth of Nations
  14. Cortisol
  15. Dairy animals
  16. Developed countries
  17. Farms
  18. Fatty acids
  19. Hormones
  20. Hydrocortisone
  21. Immune response
  22. Immunity
  23. Immunity reactions
  24. Immunological reactions
  25. Leukocytes
  26. Mammals
  27. New Zealand
  28. Oceania
  29. OECD countries
  30. peer-reviewed
  31. physical activity
  32. rain
  33. Resistance and Immunity
  34. Stress
  35. Stress response
  36. vaccination
  37. wind
  1. peer-reviewed