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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING ANIMAL WELL-BEING, IMMUNOCOMPETENCE, AND PERFORMANCE IN SWINE AND BEEF CATTLE

Location: Livestock Issues Research

Title: Relationship between stress and health in cattle

Authors
item Carroll, Jeffery
item Sanchez, Nicole

Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 13, 2012
Publication Date: June 27, 2012
Citation: Carroll, J.A., Sanchez, N.C. 2012. Relationship between stress and health in cattle. Prince AgriProducts, Inc. Advisory Bulletin, June 2011.

Interpretive Summary: Today, the scientific community and producers alike acknowledge the fact that "stress" can potentially have detrimental effects on animal productivity and overall health and well-being. Even though the debate among animal scientists concerning the definition and quantification of "stress" is ongoing, an increased understanding and appreciation with regard to the effects of "stress" on livestock production now exists both within the scientific community and with livestock producers. The stress response involves a complex interaction between the stress hormones and various body systems in efforts to reestablish homeostasis following stressor. There are several common stressors that cattle experience that may be overlooked by producers, including inadequate diet and social mixing. Stress is also known to modulate animal health and subsequent animal productivity. While is has been known for decades that "stress" can have detrimental effects on the immune system, it was only recently that the divergent effects of "acute" or short-term stress compared to long-term or "chronic" stress were revealed. Given that the innate immune system provides the first line of defense against invading pathogents, understanding the effects of stress hormones on innate immunity holds a great deal of potential with regard to improving cattle health, and ultimately, productivity. Continued research efforts into these complex interactions may allow the implementation of alternative management practices, improved selection programs, and/or implementation of various nutritional strategies to prevent or overcome significant production losses and animal health care costs for livestock producers. The information presented in this article will be of importance not only to scientists in the field of animal health and stress physiology, but also to producers that aim at improving animal health through adjustments in managament procedures.

Technical Abstract: Today, the scientific community and producers alike acknowledge the fact that "stress" can potentially have detrimental effects on animal productivity and overall health and well-being. Even though the debate among animal scientists concerning the definition and quantification of "stress" is ongoing, an increased understanding and appreciation with regard to the effects of "stress" on livestock production now exists both within the scientific community and with livestock producers. The stress response involves a complex interaction between the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which work to reestablish homeostasis following a physical, immunological, or psychological threat (stressor). There are several common stressors that cattle experience that may be overlooked by producers. Stress is also known to modulate animal health. While is has been known for decades that "stress" can have detrimental effects on the immune system, it was only recently that the divergent effects of "acute" stress compared to long-term or "chronic" stress were revealed. Given that the innate immune system provides the first line of defense, understanding the effects of stress hormones on innate immunity holds a great deal of potential with regard to improving cattle health, and ultimately, productivity. Continued research efforts into these complex interactions may allow the implementation of alternative management practices, improved selection programs, and/or implementation of various nutritional strategies to prevent or overcome significant production losses and animal health care costs for livestock producers.

Last Modified: 7/23/2014
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