Modeling heat stress under organic dairy farming conditions in warm temperate climates within the Mediterranean basin

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalClimatic Change
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2020
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We studied the effect of heat stress on milk quality in Spanish organic dairy farms using published milk productivity equations. We collected data from 23 weather stations and 14,424 milk test-days for milk yield and milk fat and protein content for the period July 2011 to June 2013. As an indicator of heat stress, we used the maximum daily temperature–humidity index (THI) from 2 days before the milk test date. We fitted the data using hierarchical regression models stratified by farm, cow parity and monthly test-day milk records. The effect of THI was deemed low on biological costs through milk yield. However, the known negative relationship between milk yield and milk quality (protein and fat content) became even steeper when the THI increased, suggesting a significant negative correlation between heat stress and milk quality. Therefore, although the milk yield of cows in the organic farming systems analyzed appeared resilient to heat stress conditions, milk quality, a major selling point for organic dairy products, was negatively affected. The model presented here could be used to predict the potential impacts of different climate change scenarios on dairy farming, and to delineate adaptation strategies within organic systems.