Cows in overcrowded shelters under stress, says study

The results of the study suggest that cows in these shelters suffer chronic stress due to the health and management issues such as old age, low-quality feeding practices, less area per cow, improper flooring and cleanliness.

Cows might not be able to tell you but they may be under severe stress when we put them in Gaushala or shelters. Crowded and unclean they might be undergoing severe stress. The physiological stress level in sheltered cows in India can be checked by stress level by checking for hormones in blood, saliva, urine or faeces. Procuring these samples can be invasive, making them difficult for studying animals on the field. Also, they give data only from a single point of time.

Using hair cortisol level as a marker for stress level in animals is increasingly being used in veterinary researchers. The method is painless for the animal and more reliable than the other available techniques in measuring long term stress. Cortisol, a lipid-based hormone, is known to be released under physiological stress conditions. Because of the hair sebum’s affinity for lipids, the circulating cortisol gets accumulated in the hair shaft over time.
 
In a recently published study by researchers Dr G.Umapathy and Dr Vinod Kumar at CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, here Dr Arvind Sharma at Himachal Veterinary University in India, and Prof Clive Phillips University at Queensland, Australia they show high cortisol levels in hair samples of 549 non-lactating cows of a median age 11 years from 54 shelters across India.
 
They investigated the correlation between hair cortisol levels in these cows with the living conditions of the cows in these cow shelters. The results of the study suggest that cows in these shelters suffer chronic stress due to the health and management issues such as old age, low-quality feeding practices, less area per cow, improper flooring and cleanliness.
 
This study is published in the journal Animals. These findings open up possibilities of animal welfare based reforms in designing animal shelters and managing them scientifically. These are important for a country like India with the policy of retiring abandoned and non-lactating cows in shelters without clear welfare policies.
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