The aim of this study was to understand the effects of skin pigmentation on physiological parameters of thermoregulation and grazing behaviour of dairy goats in a hot and humid climate. The study used 26 crossbred Saanen yearling goats (95% Saanen+5% Local Hair Breed). The animals were raised at semi-intensive private farms in Adana (36 59’ N, 35 18’E). Groups were selected 2 d before the start of observations. Goats were categorized as predominantly pigmented (P) skin and unpigmented (UP) skin. All observations and measurements were collected on grassland during the grazing period of June and July 2007 (60 d). Air temperature and relative humidity were recorded at 10 min intervals by a portable data logger. The physiological data (rectal temperature, respiration and pulse rate, and skin temperatures from head and udder) were recorded twice weekly in the morning (07:00- 08:00); at midday (13:00-14:00); and in the evening (18:00-19:00). Additionally, the activity of the animals was observed and classified (eating, ruminating, drinking, standing, walking, lying) for 12 h during the day twice weekly, using a portable camera system linked directly to a computer. Panting behaviour was also observed. According to the THI values, the experimental goats were subjected to stressful conditions. The pigmented goats had significantly lower rectal temperatures (39.68 vs. 29.89 °C), pulse rate (74.08 vs. 84.10 beat/min) and respiration rate (65.65 vs. 88.23 breath/min.) compared with unpigmented goats at midday when the THI exceeded 92. The rectal, head and udder temperatures, pulse and respiration rates of the non-pigmented group exceeded 40 °C, 37°C, 37.5°C, 84 beats/min and 78 breaths/min, respectively. Higher activity was observed among pigmented compared with unpigmented goats.
Unpigmented goats grazed (4.3 vs. 5.6 h), ruminated (2.0 vs. 2.4 h), and stood (0.8 vs. 1.2 h) less, but lay down (2.2 vs. 1.8 h) more than pigmented goats. The data obtained in this experiment support the hypothesis that unpigmented goats are more adversely affected by climatic stress, likely due to their decreased activity and increased water consumption, as demonstrated by previous studies. (
Key Words : Skin Pigmentation, Heat Stress, Physiological Factors, Grazing, Behaviour Goat)