Journal article
Fecal Cortisol Metabolites in Dairy Cows: A Cross-Sectional Exploration of Associations with Animal, Stockperson, and Farm Characteristics

Publication Details
Ebinghaus, A.; Knierim, U.; Simantke, C.; Palme, R.; Ivemeyer, S.
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o date, little is known about influences on cows’ physiological stress
levels on farms. The present study explored associations of fecal
cortisol metabolite concentrations (FCM) with (1) farm factors including
human–animal contact, (2) cows’ fear behaviors towards humans, and (3)
milk production and udder health, involving 25 dairy farms and repeated
fecal samples (n = 2625) from 674 focal
cows. Farm factors via interviews and observations, avoidance distance
(AD) and qualitative behavior assessment (QBA) during a human–animal
interaction were recorded. Milk yield and somatic cell scores (SCS) were
calculated from milk recordings. Levels of FCMs were in general
relatively low. No associations with AD and milk yield could be
detected. Correlations between FCMs and QBA and SCS were significant,
but on a low level. Against expectations, FCMs were higher, when the
farm provided concentrates by hand and habituated heifers to milking, in
part possibly due to reversed cause–effect relations. Decreased FCM
levels were found on farms that did not separate diseased cows, possibly
due to the avoidance of social stress following changes in group
structure. Additionally, straw yards compared to raised cubicles and
generous compared to suboptimal lying space were associated with
decreased levels, underlining the importance of comfort around resting.
Moreover, FCMs were decreased with increased human contact time per cow.
The different associations detected in this study provide a basis for
further experimental investigations that moreover might provide insights
into causal relationships.

Last updated on 2021-04-08 at 14:25