Relationships between temperature humidity index, mortality, milk yield and composition in Italian dairy cows

Nicola Lacetera, Andrea Vitali, Umberto Bernabucci, Alessandro Nardone


The aim of this presentation is to illustrate the activities performed by the LiveM-Task L1.2. group based at the University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy. Three different pluriannual databases were built to perform retrospective studies aimed at establishing the relationships between temperature humidity index (THI) and parameters of interest for dairy cow farms. The THI combines temperature and humidity in a single value and has been widely used to quantify heat stress in farm animals. The first database was built to assess the relationships between THI and mortality over a 6 yr period (2002-2007); the second one was a 7 yr database (2001-2007) which was built to establish the relationships between THI and milk yield; the last database included THI, milk somatic cell counts, total bacterial counts, fat and protein percentages data collected over a 7 yr period (2003-2009). The analysis of the three databases provided several equations which demonstrated and quantified an increase of mortality, reduction of milk yield and a worsening of milk quality in hot environment. Results of these analyzes authorized speculations about risks for dairy cows and their productivity in a warming planet. Furthermore, the same results are being utilized by economists also working within MACSUR at the University of Tuscia for an integrated study aimed at establishing the economic impact of climate change in the dairy sector. Combining this information with climate change regional scenarios might permit prediction of the impact of global warming and identification of adaptation measures that are appropriate for specific contexts.

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