Dairy cow heat stress within building microclimates

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Mathematical Sciences


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Technical Summary

We will use a combined ultra-wide-band positioning sensor and triaxial accelerometer to collect high-resolution data (0.1 Hz at 0.2m accuracy) of location and activity of full dairy herds continuously over extended timescales. Novel eartag sensors will collect body temperature of all cows, while a selected subset will be fitted with a rumen bolus to measure internal temperature and drinking behaviour. CCTV cameras will also monitor behaviour at specific locations. A network of temperature, humidity, CO2 and HN3 sensors will record microclimate data continuously. Airflow measurements will also be made at specific timepoints. A 12-month longitudinal trial (100 cows) will be undertaken at the University of Reading CEDAR research farm. Further case studies measuring microclimate data will be undertaken in two 4-week periods (summer and winter) at 6 commercial dairy farms with qualitatively different types of housing and farm management systems. Follow-up studies (4 weeks in summer) at two of these farms will explore the links between microclimate and behaviour in more detail.
Data analysis methods adapted from movement and spatial ecology (home range and space-use analysis, random walk change-point analysis) will be used to determine associations between behavioural (and physiological) responses, including social and herd level interactions, and microclimate over different timescales. An explanatory model directly linking behaviour and microclimate will be developed using the novel integrated Step Selection Analysis (iSSA) framework.Energy modelling techniques adapted from the field of building engineering will be used to determine thermal loading across different farm systems, including how cow behaviour is affected by, and may affect, microclimate variation. Using qualitative inputs from farmer Focus Groups, a range of potential mitigation strategies will be tested to explore practical solutions for heat abatement under a range of current and future climate scenarios


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