Detecting heat stress in dairy cattle using neck-mounted activity collars

Davison, Christopher and Michie, Craig and Hamilton, Andrew and Tachtatzis, Christos and Andonovic, Ivan and Gilroy, Michael (2020) Detecting heat stress in dairy cattle using neck-mounted activity collars. Agriculture, 10 (6). pp. 1-11. 210. ISSN 2077-0472 (

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Collar based activity sensors are in common use as a means of detecting oestrus to optimise farm fertility and hence productivity. More recently the same acceleration-derived signals have been processed to detect the time spent ruminating and eating which together give an insight into animal welfare. Here the use of neck-mounted accelerometers to provide a quantifiable measure of the time period that an individual animal exhibits signs of heat stress is reported. Heat stress has a significant impact on both animal welfare and productivity. Cattle studied during elevated temperatures were found to exhibit signs of exaggerated breathing motions, an indicator of heat stress, for 8 hours on average per day. This exceeds the time that cattle spend feeding and is similar to daily rumination times which could impact on both animal welfare and production. No similar cases were recorded on the cooler conditions of a Scottish winter. The approach offers a cost effective measure of heat stress and a potential tool to quantify its impact more generally.