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Heart Rate Variability as an Indicator of Chronic Stress Caused by Lameness in Dairy Cows.


ABSTRACT: Most experimental studies on animal stress physiology have focused on acute stress, while chronic stress, which is also encountered in intensive dairy cattle farming--e.g. in case of lameness--, has received little attention. We investigated heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) as indicators of the autonomic nervous system activity and fecal glucocorticoid concentrations as the indicator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in lame (with locomotion scores 4 and 5; n = 51) and non-lame (with locomotion scores 1 and 2; n = 52) Holstein-Friesian cows. Data recorded during the periods of undisturbed lying--representing baseline cardiac activity--were involved in the analysis. Besides linear analysis methods of the cardiac inter-beat interval (time-domain geometric, frequency domain and Poincaré analyses) non-linear HRV parameters were also evaluated. With the exception of standard deviation 1 (SD1), all HRV indices were affected by lameness. Heart rate was lower in lame cows than in non-lame ones. Vagal tone parameters were higher in lame cows than in non-lame animals, while indices of the sympathovagal balance reflected on a decreased sympathetic activity in lame cows. All geometric and non-linear HRV measures were lower in lame cows compared to non-lame ones suggesting that chronic stress influenced linear and non-linear characteristics of cardiac function. Lameness had no effect on fecal glucocorticoid concentrations. Our results demonstrate that HRV analysis is a reliable method in the assessment of chronic stress, however, it requires further studies to fully understand the elevated parasympathetic and decreased sympathetic tone in lame animals.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4536120 | BioStudies | 2015-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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