The objectives were to determine the effects of cooling of high-yielding dairy cows under a hot and humid climate on intake, milk yield, rumination time, and welfare parameters. Forty-two multiparous Israeli Holstein dairy cows were divided into 2 treatment groups and were housed in an open barn divided into 2 pens. The groups were subjected to different cooling schedules, in a crossover design as follows: cows were exposed to 5 or 8 cooling sessions per day (designated 5CS and 8CS, respectively) in the holding area of the milking parlor. Each period lasted 4 wk, and then treatments were switched for another 4-wk period. Each cooling session lasted 45 min, comprising cycles of 30s of showering and 4.5 min of ventilation without showering. Respiration rate and rectal temperature were recorded twice per week (Monday and Thursday) at 0630 and 1600 h. Rumination and lying times were recorded automatically. Rectal temperatures were 0.16 and 1.08°C lower in 8CS than in 5CS cows in the morning and afternoon, respectively. Respiration rate was lower in 8CS than in 5CS cows in the morning (49.1 and 54.6 breaths/min, respectively), and more so in the afternoon (50.0 and 83.0 breaths/min, respectively). Dry matter intake and milk yields were 9.3 and 9.6% higher in the 8CS than in the 5CS cows (27.0 vs. 24.7 and 40.1 vs. 36.6 kg/d, respectively), with no differences in milk fat and protein contents. Daily rumination time was 7.4% longer in the 8CS than in the 5CS (440.1 and 409.6 min/d, respectively); however, rumination time per unit of dry matter or neutral detergent fiber consumed was higher in the 5CS than in the 8CS cows. Although the 8CS cows moved 3 times more to the milking area for extra cooling sessions than the 5CS ones, they spent 9.9 min/d more than the 5CS ones in lying down (484.4 and 474.5 min/d, respectively), and used more of their free time (excluding milking and feeding time) in resting than the 5CS cows: 52.0 and 43.9%, respectively. It appears that increasing the cooling frequency from 5 to 8 times per day improved their feeling of welfare, so they could spend more time lying and ruminating. In conclusion, increasing the cooling frequency of high-yielding dairy cows under hot and humid conditions from 5 to 8 times a day increased their intake and milk yield, and lowered their respiration rate and rectal temperature. Moreover, the 8CS cows spent more time resting than 5CS cows, an indication that increasing cooling frequency improved animal welfare.
Copyright © 2012 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.