Heat tolerance in Mashona beef cows in semi-arid rangelands: does conformation matter?

Alphonce MATOPE, Titus Jairus ZINDOVE, Marshall DHLIWAYO, Michael CHIMONYO, Musavenga TIVAPASI


High temperatures and frequent heat waves raise concerns about heat stress in cattle in grass-based systems, especially in arid and semiarid areas. This study analysed the relationship between conformation traits and physiological parameters associated with heat stress in Mashona cattle. A total of 200 records from fifty cows were used to study the relationships between seven conformation traits and physiological parameters associated with heat stress. Body conformation traits were categorised into three principal components related to body capacity (body depth, flank circumference, chest girth), frame size (stature and body length), and loose skin fold (navel height and dewlap size). As the size of abdominopelvic and thoracic cavities increased, respiratory rate, heart rate, and rectal temperature decreased significantly, while blood triiodothyronine concentration increased. Cattle with deeper bodies, larger flanks, and larger chest girths had significantly lower heart rate, respiratory rate, and rectal temperature but higher blood triiodothyronine concentration than cattle with shallower bodies, smaller flanks, and smaller chest girths. Respiratory rate increased with increasing frame size. Large-framed cattle had significantly higher respiratory rate and lower blood thyroxine concentration. Small-framed cattle with larger chest girth, larger dewlap, and navel farther from the ground surface are better adapted to higher ambient temperatures.


beef cattle; breeds; Mashona; grazing; heat stress; physiological parameters; conformation traits; body frame; arid rangelands; semi-arid rangelands

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14720/aas.2023.119.1.2259


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