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Archivos de medicina veterinaria

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ARIAS, RA; MADER, TL  and  ESCOBAR, PC. Climatic factors affecting cattle performance in dairy and beef farms. Arch. med. vet. [online]. 2008, vol.40, n.1, pp.7-22. ISSN 0301-732X.

The effect of climate on dairy and beef cattle is variable and complex because it affects the environment in which the animals are raised and reproduced. Its influence on animal welfare and production have been recognized and studied since 1950's. Climate affects livestock directly and indirectly, since it modifies the quality and/or quantity of food available, the requirements of water and energy, and the amount of energy consumed and the use of it. The animals cope with these adverse conditions of climate by altering physiological and behavioral mechanisms in order to maintain their body temperature within a normal range. As a result it is possible to observe changes in the food intake, behavior and productivity. These changes are magnified under extreme conditions of heat or cold, implying drastic reductions in the indices of production, such as average daily gain and daily milk production. Most of the research conducted in this area has been done mainly in controlled environmental chambers, with emphasis on the animal response and its productivity. Currently, the major scientific focus is on the development of thermal stress indices as practical tools for cattle handling under unfavorable environmental conditions. The objectives of this review are to describe and discuss the most important climatic factors affecting cattle performance as well as the major mitigation alternatives. It also presents a brief overview of the research carried out in Chile and possible lines of research in this field

Keywords : stress; beef and dairy cattle; animal welfare; climatic factors.

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