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J Dairy Sci. 2014 Dec;97(12):7889-904. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8023. Epub 2014 Sep 26.

Modeling heat stress effect on Holstein cows under hot and dry conditions: selection tools.

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Departamento de Mejora Genética Animal, Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), Madrid 28040, Spain. Electronic address:
Departamento de Mejora Genética Animal, Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), Madrid 28040, Spain.
Centro Regional de Selección y Reproducción Animal, 13300 Valdepeñas, Spain.


Data from milk recording of Holstein-Friesian cows together with weather information from 2 regions in Southern Spain were used to define the models that can better describe heat stress response for production traits and somatic cell score (SCS). Two sets of analyses were performed, one aimed at defining the population phenotypic response and the other at studying the genetic components. The first involved 2,514,762 test-day records from up to 5 lactations of 128,112 cows. Two models, one fitting a comfort threshold for temperature and a slope of decay after the threshold, and the other a cubic Legendre polynomial (LP) model were tested. Average (TAVE) and maximum daily temperatures were alternatively considered as covariates. The LP model using TAVE as covariate showed the best goodness of fit for all traits. Estimated rates of decay from this model for production at 25 and 34°C were 36 and 170, 3.8 and 3.0, and 3.9 and 8.2g/d per degree Celsius for milk, fat, and protein yield, respectively. In the second set of analyses, a sample of 280,958 test-day records from first lactations of 29,114 cows was used. Random regression models including quadratic or cubic LP regressions (TEM_) on TAVE or a fixed threshold and an unknown slope (DUMMY), including or not cubic regressions on days in milk (DIM3_), were tested. For milk and SCS, the best models were the DIM3_ models. In contrast, for fat and protein yield, the best model was TEM3. The DIM3DUMMY models showed similar performance to DIM3TEM3. The estimated genetic correlations between the same trait under cold and hot temperatures (ρ) indicated the existence of a large genotype by environment interaction for fat (ρ=0.53 for model TEM3) and protein yield (ρ around 0.6 for DIM3TEM3) and for SCS (ρ=0.64 for model DIM3TEM3), and a small genotype by environment interaction for milk (ρ over 0.8). The eigendecomposition of the additive genetic covariance matrix from model TEM3 showed the existence of a dominant component, a constant term that is not affected by temperature, representing from 64% of the variation for SCS to 91% of the variation for milk. The second component, showing a flat pattern at intermediate temperatures and increasing or decreasing slopes for the extremes, gathered 15, 11, and 24% of the variation for fat and protein yield and SCS, respectively. This component could be further evaluated as a selection criterion for heat tolerance independently of the production level.


Holstein cattle; genetic selection; heat stress

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