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Effect of exposure to adverse climatic conditions on production in Manchega dairy sheep



Effect of exposure to adverse climatic conditions on production in Manchega dairy sheep



Journal of Dairy Science 99(7): 5764-5779



The present study aimed to examine the effects of exposure to adverse weather conditions on milk production to assess the thermotolerance capability of the Manchega breed, a dairy sheep reared in the Mediterranean area, and the extent of decline in production outside the thermal comfort zone. To achieve this purpose, we merged data from the official milk recording of the breed with weather information and used to describe the cold and heat stress response for production traits. Production data consisted of 1,094,804 test-day records from the first 3 lactations of 177,605 ewes gathered between years 2000 to 2010. For each production trait and climate variable, the thermal load production response was characterized by the estimation of cold and heat stress thresholds that define a thermoneutral zone and the slopes of production decay outside this thermoneutral zone. Overall, we observed a comfort region between 10 and 22°C for daily average temperature, 18 and 30°C for daily maximum temperature, and from 9 to 18 units for a temperature-humidity index (THI) for all traits. Decline in production due to cold stress effects was of a greater magnitude than heat stress effects, especially for milk yield. Production losses ranged between 7 and 16 and from 0.2 to 0.6g/d per °C (or THI unit) for milk and for fat and protein yields, respectively. For heat stress, the observed decline in production was of 1 to 5 and 0.1 to 0.3g/d per °C (or THI unit) above the threshold for milk yield and for fat and protein yields, respectively. Highly productive animals showed a narrower comfort zone and higher slopes of decay. The study of lagged effects of thermal load showed how consequences of cold and heat stress are already visible in the first hours after exposure. Thus, production losses were due mainly to climate conditions on the day of control and the day before, with conditions on the previous days having a smaller effect. Annual economic losses due to thermal (cold and heat) stress ranged from 0.1 up to 4% of total profit depending on which climate variable was considered. Although of small magnitude, the effect of adverse climatic conditions on total annual farm profit is not negligible; thus, we consider the implementation of strategies aimed at reducing these losses to be important. These strategies could be target improving the mitigation strategies as well as obtaining more thermotolerant animals through selection.

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Accession: 057703803

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 27132106

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2016-10909


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