Infrared thermography and behavioral biometrics associated with estrus indicators and ovulation in estrus-synchronized dairy cows housed in tiestalls.


Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2P5, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Most Canadian dairy herds operate in tiestall housing (61%), where average estrus detection rates may be lower than 54%. The objective of this study was to evaluate infrared thermography and behavioral biometrics as indicators of estrus in dairy cows. Eighteen cyclic multiparous cows (Synch) were subjected to an estrus synchronization protocol, and 18 pregnant cows (control) received a sham protocol on the same schedule and frequency as the cyclic cow treatment. A decline in plasma concentrations of progesterone and the appearance of a dominant follicle using transrectal ultrasonography were used as indirect indicators of estrus, and the disappearance of a dominant follicle was used to confirm ovulation. All cows were monitored via visual cameras to determine the frequency of treading, drinking, neighbor interaction, tail movement, lying, and shifting behaviors. Infrared thermograms were recorded at the eye, muzzle, cheek, neck, front right foot, front left foot, rump, flank, vulva area, tail head, and withers. To evaluate the accuracy of behavioral and thermal parameters, a predefined minimum acceptable value (i.e., threshold) for estrus alerts (>0.30 Youden J index and >0.60 area under the curve) was used. Ovulation was confirmed in 14 (77.7%) out of 18 Synch cows. Eye, cheek, neck, rump, flank, vulva area, and wither thermograms exhibited higher temperatures at 48 h [cycle threshold (Δt) = +0.30 to 1.20°C] and 24 h before ovulation compared with 4 d prior to ovulation (Δt = 0.06 to 0.11°C) and during ovulation day (Δt = 0.03 to 0.32°C) in the Synch group. In addition, control cows exhibited greater treading activity per day compared with Synch cows (20.84 ± 0.39 vs. 16.35 events/5 min ± 0.34), and tail movement frequency was greater in Synch cows compared with control cows (14.84 ± 2.7 vs. 10.11 ± 4.7 events/5 min). However, within Synch cows, tail movement was the only behavior that significantly increased in frequency 2 d before ovulation (11.81 ± 1.71 events/5 min) followed by a decrease in frequency 1 d before ovulation (4.67 ± 1.05 events/5 min) compared with ovulation day (0 d; 6.10 ± 1.25 events/5 min) and during luteolysis (3 d before ovulation; 6.01 ± 1.25 events/5 min). Upon evaluation of all variables (thermograms and behavior frequencies) as estrus indicators at 48 and 24 h before ovulation, treading and tail movements before milking and 9 thermal locations satisfied the predefined minimum acceptable value for estrus alerts. This study demonstrates that fluctuations in radiated temperature measured at specific anatomical locations and the frequency of tail movements and treading behaviors can be used as a noninvasive estrus alerts in multiparous cows housed in a tiestall system.


estrus indicator,movement,pipeline housing,radiated temperature,

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