Main content area

Seasonal variations in the composition of Holstein cow’s milk and temperature–humidity index relationship

Bertocchi, L., Vitali, A., Lacetera, N., Nardone, A., Varisco, G., Bernabucci, U.
Animal 2014 v.8 no.4 pp. 667-674
Holstein, bulk milk, dairy cows, dairy farming, financial economics, heat, milk, milk composition, models, plate count, relative humidity, retrospective studies, seasonal variation, somatic cell count, summer, temperature, weather stations, Italy
A retrospective study on seasonal variations in the characteristics of cow’s milk and temperature–humidity index (THI) relationship was conducted on bulk milk data collected from 2003 to 2009. The THI relationship study was carried out on 508 613 bulk milk data items recorded in 3328 dairy farms form the Lombardy region, Italy. Temperature and relative humidity data from 40 weather stations were used to calculate THI. Milk characteristics data referred to somatic cell count (SCC), total bacterial count (TBC), fat percentage (FA%) and protein percentage (PR%). Annual, seasonal and monthly variations in milk composition were evaluated on 656 064 data items recorded in 3727 dairy farms. The model highlighted a significant association between the year, season and month, and the parameters analysed (SCC, TBC, FA%, PR%). The summer season emerged as the most critical season. Of the summer months, July presented the most critical conditions for TBC, FA% and PR%, (52 054±183 655, 3.73%±0.35% and 3.30%±0.15%, respectively), and August presented higher values of SCC (369 503±228 377). Each milk record was linked to THI data calculated at the nearest weather station. The analysis demonstrated a positive correlation between THI and SCC and TBC, and indicated a significant change in the slope at 57.3 and 72.8 maximum THI, respectively. The model demonstrated a negative correlation between THI and FA% and PR% and provided breakpoints in the pattern at 50.2 and 65.2 maximum THI, respectively. The results of this study indicate the presence of critical climatic thresholds for bulk tank milk composition in dairy cows. Such indications could facilitate the adoption of heat management strategies, which may ensure the health and production of dairy cows and limit related economic losses.