Welfare implication of measuring heart rate and heart rate variability in dairy cattle: Literature review and conclusions for future research

L. Kovács, V. Jurkovich, M. Bakony, O. Szenci, P. Póti, J. Tå'Zsér

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)


Heart rate (HR) measurements have been used to determine stress in livestock species since the beginning of the 1970s. However, according to the latest studies in veterinary and behaviour-physiological sciences, heart rate variability (HRV) proved to be more precise for studying the activity of the autonomic nervous system. In dairy cattle, HR and HRV indices have been used to detect stress caused by routine management practices, pain or milking. This review provides the significance of HR and HRV measurements in dairy cattle by summarising current knowledge and research results in this area. First, the biological background and the interrelation of the autonomic regulation of cardiovascular function, stress, HR and HRV are discussed. Equipment and methodological approaches developed to measure interbeat intervals and estimate HRV in dairy cattle are described. The methods of HRV analysis in time, frequency and non-linear domains are also explained in detail emphasising their physiological background. Finally, the most important scientific results and potential possibilities for future research are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-330
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2014



  • dairy cattle
  • heart rate
  • heart rate variability
  • stress
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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