Lovarelli, D., Finzi, A., Mattachini, G. et al. 2020. A survey of dairy cattle behavior in different barns in northern Italy. Animals 10(4), 713.
Due to its increasing pressure on dairy cows, studies that investigate how to cope with heat stress are needed. The heat stress affects multiple aspects of cows’ lives, among which their behavior and welfare. In this study, a survey was carried out in eight farms located in Northern Italy to monitor and evaluate the environmental aspects of the barns and the behavioral responses of dairy cows. For one year, three periods were monitored: thermoneutral (T_S), hot (H_S) and cold (C_S) seasons. Temperature and relative humidity were measured by environmental sensors, and lying vs. standing time, number of lying bouts and their average duration were collected by accelerometers. The temperature-humidity index (THI) was quantified inside and outside of the barn. Results show that at the increase of the THI, behavioral adaptations occurred in all the farms, especially with a reduction of lying time and an increase of respiration rate. Four of the eight farms need interventions for improving the cows’ welfare. Here, environmental problems should be solved by introducing or improving the efficacy of the forced ventilation or by modifying the barn structure. Monitoring dairy barns with sensors and Precision Livestock Farming techniques can be helpful for future livestock farming to alert farmers on the need for their interventions to respond immediately to unwanted barn living conditions.