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Effectiveness of the Australian breeding value for heat tolerance at discriminating responses of lactating Holstein cows to heat stress

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posted on 2022-08-31, 07:42 authored by LM Jensen, EA Jannaman, Jennie PryceJennie Pryce, A De Vries, PJ Hansen
Heat stress has negative consequences for milk production and reproduction of dairy cattle. These adverse effects are likely to increase because of climate change and anticipated increases in milk yield. Some of the variation among cows in ability to resist effects of heat stress is genetic. The current objective of this observational study was to assess the effectiveness of the Australian breeding value for heat tolerance (ABVHT) based on the decline in milk yield with heat stress for predicting cow differences in effects of heat stress on regulation of body temperature, milk production, and reproductive function. Genomic breeding values for heat tolerance were calculated for 12,487 cows from a single California dairy farm. Rectal temperature in the afternoon (1100–2045 h) was measured on a subset of 626 lactating cows with ABVHT ≥102 (heat tolerant) or <102 (heat sensitive). Rectal temperature was 0.12°C lower for heat-tolerant cows than heat-sensitive cows. Vaginal temperatures were measured every 15 min for 5 d in 118 cows with ABVHT ≥108 (extreme heat tolerant) or <97 (extreme heat sensitive). Vaginal temperature was 0.07°C lower for extreme heat–tolerant cows than extreme heat–sensitive cows. Lactation records for 4,703 cows with ABVHT were used to evaluate seasonal variation in first 90-d milk yield, fat percent, and protein percent for each ABVHT quartile. Overall, cows with higher ABVHT had lower milk yield, fat percentage, and protein percentage and higher first service pregnancy rate. There was no summer depression in production or reproduction or interactions between season and ABVHT quartile. We observed that ABVHT can successfully identify heat-tolerant cows that maintain lower body temperatures during heat stress. The lack of a pronounced seasonality in milk production or reproduction precluded evaluation of whether ABVHT is related to the magnitude of effect of heat stress on those traits.


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science






9p. (p. 7820-7828)





Rights Statement

© 2022, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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