Thermoregulatory and Behaviour Responses of Dairy Heifers Raised on a Silvopastoral System in a Subtropical Climate

Frederico Márcio C. Vieira 1 , Matheus Deniz 1 , Edgar S. Vismara 2 , Piotr Herbut 3 , Jaqueline A. Pilatti 1 , Maurício Zotti Sponchiado 1 ,  and Barbara de Oliveira Puretz 1
  • 1 Grupo de Estudos em Biometeorologia – GEBIOMET (Biometeorology Study Group), Federal University of Technology – Paraná (UTFPR), Brazil
  • 2 Federal University of Technology – Paraná (UTFPR), , Brazil
  • 3 University of Agriculture in Krakow, Department of Rural Building, Kraków, Poland

Abstract

In this study, we investigated the influence of a silvopastoral system on the thermal environment, behaviour and thermoregulation of dairy heifers in a subtropical climate. The experiment was conducted on a dairy farm in Southwest Paraná, Brazil, during the summer of 2014. Crossbred Holstein × Jersey dairy heifers (n = 10) were used in a split-plot design. The fixed effects in this study include time of day (9:00–10:00, 13:00–14:00, and 17:00–18:00 h) under silvopastoral or open pastures conditions, which were the main-plot and split-plot factors, respectively. To assess the environmental conditions in both systems, air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed were recorded. In addition, the temperature-humidity index was calculated based on the microcli-mate measurements. Respiratory rate and hair coat surface temperature of heifers were measured in both groups during time of day (30 days). Diurnal behaviour using focal observations with 0/1 sampling was observed. Data were analysed using Bayesian inference with a mixed effects model. The air temperature was higher (P<0.05) in open pasture conditions than the silvopasture system. Temperature-humidity index values for the silvopasture system were lower than open pasture during the hottest hours of the day. Regarding thermoregulation responses, there was an interaction between time of day and pasture environment (P<0.05). Heifers showed lower respiratory rates and hair coat surface temperature values (P<0.05) when access to shade was provided, mainly during the hottest periods in the afternoon. In addition, there was also an interaction between rumination and water intake (P<0.05), which indicates a higher rumination frequency for animals in the silvopasture system during the hottest period, as well as a higher water intake frequency for heifers in open pasture during midday. These findings imply that the arrangement of trees in a silvopasture system provides better thermal comfort conditions for dairy heifers raised in a subtropical climate.

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