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Main research question/goal
Cattle that are kept outside (beef and dairy cattle on pasture and cattle grazing in nature reserves), are sometimes exposed to aversive weather conditions. The potential effects of cold and heat stress are well known from studies in extreme climates. However, it is unclear whether aversive weather conditions (cold and heat) in a temperate climate like in Belgium are common enough and extreme enough to cause problems with respect to the welfare, productivity and fertility of these animals. This raises the question whether the provision of shelter on the pasture is a necessity, and which form or type of shelter is the best choice.

Research approach
In a first substudy we monitor the terrain use by cattle in year-round grazing projects in several nature reserves using GPS collars. We relate their use of natural shelter (vegetation) and an artificial shelter is to the weather conditions, and we investigate whether they prefer any of both types. A second substudy investigates the effect of summer conditions and the effect of shade as protection against heat stress on the welfare and productivity of dairy and beef cows.

Based on scientific arguments relating to animal welfare, economic and other relevant aspects (e.g. integration in the landscape) advice and information on optimal protection practices for cattle on pasture are provided to governments, farmers, citizens  and conservation organizations.

Funding provider(s)
Collectief 'Eigen Inbreng'
FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu

External partner(s)
KULeuven - Dept. Biosystemen
Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
Effective start/end date1/11/1031/10/14

ID: 4152291