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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Farmers´ sense of the biological impact of extreme heat and seasonality on Swedish high-yielding dairy cows – A mixed methods approach

Tamminen, Lena-Mari; Båge, Renee; Åkerlind, Maria; Olmos Antillon, Gabriela


Supporting dairy farmers in becoming resilient towards extreme weather requires a broad understanding of the experiences and perceived risks associated with these events from those who undergo them. We used a mixed methods approach to explore national trends of biological consequences on dairy cow udder health and fertility, combined with in-depth farmer conversations around extreme weather events, focusing on heat. The aim is to provide a comprehensive picture of how dairy farmer perceptions, priorities and decision-making are related to the season and extreme weather to identify preventive pathways that can reduce biological costs of heat stress on Swedish dairy cattle during summer. Data collected monthly at cow and farm level between 2016-2019 as part of the Swedish milk and disease recording system confirm seasonal trends and show increased somatic cell counts (SCC) and negatively impacted fertility during summers. In addition, transcriptions of 18 interviews with dairy farmers across the country and seasonal variations of SCC and fertility were thematically analysed. The results suggest that farmers have a broad definition of extreme weather and are aware of the negative impacts. Yet handling of extreme weather events can mainly be classified as reactive. Nevertheless, there are long-term effects on the farm economy, health and herd dynamics. Swedish dairy farmers are currently showing resilience, albeit a fragile one. The capability to ensure sufficient feed production in extreme weather is critical for farm selfperceived resilience. However, acknowledging the long-term biological costs related to fertility, currently not perceived by farmers, has the potential to support proactive planning and improve farm resilience and profitability.


Cattle; Climate; Resilience; Preparedness; Fertility; SCC

Published in

Preventive Veterinary Medicine
2024, Volume: 224, article number: 106131