How does stress affect dairy cows and how does smaXtec helps you detect stress at an early stage?
There are different types of stressors, however, all of them affect health, well-being and performance of dairy cows. But which measures need to be taken in order to keep the stress levels of your animals as low as possible? How can the smaXtec system help you to detect stress at an early stage? You will find answers to these questions in the following blog article.
How does stress affect the health and well-being of cows?
Stress can affect dairy cows as follows:
- Decrease in feed intake
- Decrease in performance
- Increase in bacterial and viral infections (udders, claws, genital organs)
- Fertility disorders – early death of fetuses and increased rate of stillbirths, endometritis, postnatal behavior
- Liver damage
- Abomasal displacement
- Heart failure
- Unable to move post-partum
- Growth disorder 
As an example for stressors, we can mention the human-animal relationship. If stress is caused by this relationship, performance and health of the animals are impaired. Various studies [e.g. 2] show that the milk yield drops significantly when negative interactions between milkers and animals occur. On the other hand, if milkers show a positive attitude towards the animals, the milk yield is higher. High cell count, which is bad for milk quality, may also be related to social interaction during the milking process. The herd’s cell count rises if the attitude of the milkers is generally poor and results in stress situations. It has also been shown that stress is a risk factor for mastitis. Generally, animals suffering from stress are more likely to get sick. 
Many stressors (such as birth stress, social stress, heat stress etc.) result in poor health, fatigue and loss of appetite. In addition, these factors have a negative influence on the liver and cause subclinical inflammatory processes. The liver is the metabolic center of the body and therefore the rate of first inseminations decreases with the increasing degree of liver damage.
How can stress be minimized?
Stressed cows do not feel well, get ill more easily and give less milk, that’s why it is in the interests of every farmer to keep his/her animals as stress-free as possible. Some things that you need to keep in mind to ensure a stress-free atmosphere for your cows include:
- Optimisation of husbandry conditions
- Do not overwhelm animals (not too many steps, not overly long distances to/from troughs etc.)
- Prevent overcrowding
- Dry lying surface at all times 
- Pay attention to sufficient light (important for hormone balance and fertility) 
- Provision of enough fresh air and water
- Sufficient fresh air
- Sufficient troughs and fresh water for all animals
- Calm atmosphere during milking
- Make the milking process as stress-free as possible
- Avoid hustle and bustle, noise, vibration, restricted standing space etc.
- Create a good relationship between humans and animals 
smaXtec helps to recognize and avoid stress earliest possible
If the activity level of a cow changes, it may already be a sign of stress. If feeding and drinking problems also occur, an abnormal state of health is indicated. The well-being of a cows has the highest priority for farmers, also for economic reasons – only healthy cows have a high milk yield. Difficult births, inflammations but also heat stress reduce efficiency enormously.
This is where the smaXtec system comes into the equation. It helps farmers maintain or improve the health of his/her animals. The smaXtec Bolus measures inner body temperature and thus heat stress as well as metabolic diseases (such as ketosis) can be detected at an early stage. Stress is also manifested by an unwillingness to eat and drink. Due to the position of the smaXtec bolus in the rumen, the water uptake of the animal is also monitored. If the farmer receives a notification that the animal is drinking too little, this can be a sign of stress.
Calvings are also very critical events for both cow and calf. Here, problems must be detected earliest possible, otherwise complications can occur. The smaXtec system informs you about the upcoming calving so that you can take necessary measures early on and avoid serious complications.
Interested in finding out more about our system? Contact us today!
 Reiter, K. und Walter, F. (2013): Licht im Rinderstall. Lehr- und Forschungsanstalt Raumberg-Gumpenstein