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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #155050


item Lay, Jr, Donald - Don

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Animal Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/26/2004
Publication Date: 12/22/2004
Citation: Lay, Jr., D.C. 2004. Environment: Effect of animal health. Encyclopedia of Animal Science. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Environmental conditions under which we keep livestock have a significant effect on animal health. Some environmental characteristics have direct effects on animal health, such as conditions which cause injury or allow pathogens to be easily spread. Other characteristics of the environment have indirect effects on animal health by causing the animal to enter a state of distress which then predisposes it to succumb to disease. Each livestock species has specific environmental needs to optimize healthful conditions. It is most important to realize that even individuals within the same group may have needs that are different than that of its herd mates. Meeting individual needs is critical to maintaining healthy herds and flocks. By paying attention to individual needs and alleviating those conditions in the environment which cause stress livestock producers can decrease the incidence of disease thereby increasing productivity and animal well-being.

Technical Abstract: The health status of livestock is influenced by many factors, including prenatal development, neonatal care, genetic disposition, and the environment in which the animal is housed. Managing environmental influences to maximize the health status of livestock is critical to both animal productivity and animal well-being. A major influence of the health status of livestock is how each individual animal is able to cope with the environment in which it is housed. The inability to cope with potential stressors in an environment predisposes livestock to succumb to disease by suppressing their ability to combat pathogens. Even in the best housing systems livestock can be subjected to stress, and each housing system offers its own challenges to livestock and managers. For example, pasture systems may decrease stress by allowing livestock more space to escape aggression. However, this same system can place livestock under both heat stress and cold stress. In addition, two individuals managed in the same system can perceive the situation entirely different; one perceiving the environment as stressful while the other does not perceive it as stressful. Therefore, it is important to manage each system and each animal on an individual basis to optimize the health of livestock.