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J Dairy Sci. 2013 Mar;96(3):1844-55. doi: 10.3168/jds.2012-5947. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Evaluation of heat stress effects on production traits and somatic cell score of Holsteins in a temperate environment.

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Animal Science Unit, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liège, B-5030 Gembloux, Belgium.


This study was aimed to evaluate the degree of thermal stress exhibited by Holsteins under a continental temperate climate. Milk, fat, protein, and somatic cell count test-day records collected between 2000 and 2011 from 23,963 cows in 604 herds were combined with meteorological data from 14 public weather stations in Luxembourg. Daily values of 6 different thermal indices (TI) weighted in term of temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed were calculated by averaging hourly TI over 24h. Heat stress thresholds were first identified by a broken-line regression model. Regression models were thereafter applied to quantify milk production losses due to heat stress. The tipping points at which milk and protein yields declined were effectively identified. For fat yield, no valid threshold was identified for any of the studied TI. Daily fat yields tended to decrease steadily with increasing values of TI. Daily somatic cell score patterns were marked by increased values at both lowest and highest TI ranges, with a more pronounced reaction to cold stress for apparent temperature indices. Thresholds differed between TI and traits. For production traits, they ranged from 62 (TI(1)) to 80 (TI(3)) for temperature-humidity indices (THI) and from 16 (TI(5)) to 20 (TI(6)) for apparent temperature indices. Corresponding somatic cell score thresholds were higher and ranged from 66 (TI(1)) to 82 (TI(3)) and from 20 (TI(5)) to 23 (TI(6)), respectively. The largest milk decline per unit of mild, moderate, and extreme heat stress levels of 0.164, 0.356, and 0.955 kg, respectively, was observed when using the conventional THI (TI(1)). The highest yearly milk, fat, and protein losses of 54, 5.7, and 4.2 kg, respectively, were detected by TI(2), the THI index that is adjusted for wind speed and solar radiation. The latter index could be considered as the best indicator of heat stress to be used for forecast and herd management in a first step in temperate regions under anticipated climate changes.

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