Interactions between climatological variables and sheltering behavior of pastoral beef cattle during sunny weather in a temperate climate

J Anim Sci. 2013 Feb;91(2):943-9. doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-5415. Epub 2012 Dec 10.


Concerns in regard to thermal discomfort experienced by cattle are increasing, especially in the summer time. It is important to determine whether or not pastured beef cattle would make use of shade during sunny circumstances in a temperate climate. If so, scientifically based guidelines may need to be formulated for translation into legislation aiming to protect animal welfare. Approximately 255 beef cattle on 18 pastures were observed from July 2010 through November 2010 in central Belgium. Pastures having either natural or artificial shelter for animal protection but similar with respect to agricultural and climatological characteristics were included in the study. The analysis of data focused on the effect of weather conditions on sheltering behavior of cattle, with pasture as a random factor. During sunny weather, ambient temperature had a significant influence on the use of shade (P < 0.0001): the greater the environmental temperature was, the more cattle on a pasture were located in a shaded area. Ambient temperature (Ta) and relative humidity (RH) both tended to have a positive relation with shade use. However, the expected impact of their combined effect was not found, probably because of the strong negative correlation between RH and Ta (r = -0.7122) in the studied region. Greater wind speed (WS) reduced the need for shade, even at a greater Ta (P < 0.0001). Both Ta and solar radiation (RAD) influenced use of shade, but the interaction or combined effect was not significant. The variability of shade use between the pastures in this study could be explained by the surface of shade present on the pasture. It is rather self-evident that cows made more use of shade when a greater percentage of the surface area was shaded, but the presence of remaining nonshaded area kept the alternative choice reliable. On the basis of the fact that more cattle being observed in a shaded area was associated with a higher dry air temperature, it can be concluded that providing shelter could also be valuable for pastured cattle living in a temperate region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Climate*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Humidity
  • Poaceae
  • Temperature