Effects of heat stress periods on milk production, milking frequency and rumination time of grazing dairy cows milked by a mobile automatic system in 2013

F. Lessire


In Europe, analysis of meteorological data shows that the average temperature has increased by ~1°C over the past hundred years (IPCC, 2013). Heat stress periods are thus expected to be more frequent even in temperate areas.  The use of an automatic milking system (AMS) implies the need to stimulate cows’ traffic to the robot, especially with grazing cows.  Describing how heat stress influenced cows’ traffic to the robot is the aim of this study.

Grazing dairy cows milked by an automatic system (AMS) experienced heat stress (HS) periods, twice during the summer 2013 in July (J) and August (A). The daily temperature humidity index (THI) during these periods were higher than 75. Each HS period was compared with a “normal period”(N), presenting the same number of cows, similar lactation number, days in milk, distance to come back to the robot and an equal access to water. The first HS period of 5 days with a mean THI of 78.4 was chosen in J, and a second that lasted for 6 days in A with a THI value of 77.3.  Heat stress periods were cut off with the same duration of days with no stress (N) and mean THI <70.  Milk production, milkings and returns to the robot during HS were compared with N periods.

Milkings and visits to AMS were significantly more numerous in HS periods in July (HS: 2.44 vs N: 2.23, 3.97 vs 3.03) but milk production dropped from 20.3 kg to 19.3 kg milk per cow and per day. In August, MY increased slightly during HS.  This could be explained by less high ambient temperatures and decreased distance to walk inducing less energy expenditure.  The increase in milkings and visits to the robot during HS could be linked to water availability nearby the robot and confirmed previous findings (Lessire et al., 2014).

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Authors: Lessire F.1, Hornick J. L.1, Minet J.2, Dufrasne I.1

Affiliations: 1 FARAH, Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, chemin de la Ferme, 6, 4000 Liège; 2 DER Sc. et gest. de l'Environnement (Arlon Campus Environ.) Agrométéorologie (relation agriculture-environ. Université de Liège

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