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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Feb;93(2):644-55. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2295.

Effects of heat stress on energetic metabolism in lactating Holstein cows.

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Department of Animal Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Heat stress has an enormous economic impact on the global dairy industry, but the mechanisms by which hyperthermia negatively affect systemic physiology and milk synthesis are not clear. Study objectives were to evaluate production parameters and metabolic variables in lactating dairy cows during short-term heat stress or pair-fed conditions coupled with bST administration. Twenty-two multiparous Holstein cows were subjected to 3 experimental periods: 1) thermoneutral conditions with ad libitum intake for 7 d (P1); 2) heat stress (HS) with ad libitum intake (n=10) or pair-fed (PF) in thermoneutral conditions (n=12) for 7 d (P2), and 3) 7 d of HS or PF in conditions as described in P2 with recombinant bovine somatotropin administered on d 1 (P3). All cows received an intravenous glucose tolerance test (GTT) on d 5 of each period. Heat stress conditions were cyclical and temperatures ranged from 29.4 to 38.9 degrees C. Rectal temperatures and respiration rates increased during heat stress (38.6-40.4 degrees C and 44-89 breaths/min, respectively). Heat stress reduced dry matter intake by 30% and by design PF cows had similar intake reductions (28%). During heat stress and pair-feeding, milk yield decreased by 27.6% (9.6kg) and 13.9% (4.8kg), respectively, indicating that reduced feed intake accounted for only 50% of the decreased milk production. Milk yield increased with recombinant bovine somatotropin in both HS (9.7%) and PF (16.1%) cows. Cows in both groups were in positive energy balance (3.95 Mcal/d) during P1 but entered negative energy balance during P2 and P3 (-5.65 Mcal/d). Heat stress and pair-feeding treatments decreased (9.3%) basal glucose concentrations. Heat stress conditions had no effect on basal NEFA levels during P2; however, PF cows (despite a similar calculated energy balance) had a 2-fold increase in basal NEFA concentrations. Both groups had increased plasma urea nitrogen levels during P2 and P3 compared with P1. Basal insulin levels increased (37%) during P2 and P3 in HS cows but did not differ between periods in PF cows. During P2 and compared with P1, PF cows had a decreased rate of glucose disposal, whereas HS cows had a similar disposal rate following the GTT. During P2 and compared with P1, PF cows had a reduced insulin response whereas HS cows had a similar insulin response to the GTT. In summary, reduced nutrient intake accounted for only 50% of heat stress-induced decreases in milk yield, and feed intake-independent shifts in postabsorptive glucose and lipid homeostasis may contribute to the additional reduction in milk yield.

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