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Genetic analysis of heat stress effects on yield traits, udder health, and fatty acids of Walloon Holstein cows

Hammami, H., Vandenplas, J., Vanrobays, M.-L., Rekik, B., Bastin, C., Gengler, N.
Journal of dairy science 2015 v.98 no.7 pp. 4956-4968
Holstein, biomarkers, cold, cold zones, cows, dairy cattle, farms, genetic correlation, genetic merit, genetic techniques and protocols, genetic variance, heat stress, heat tolerance, herds, meteorological data, milk, milk fatty acids, models, monounsaturated fatty acids, phenotype, polyunsaturated fatty acids, somatic cells, spectroscopy, udders, weather stations, Belgium
Genetic parameters that considered tolerance for heat stress were estimated for production, udder health, and milk composition traits. Data included 202,733 test-day records for milk, fat, and protein yields, fat and protein percentages, somatic cell score (SCS), 10 individual milk fatty acids (FA) predicted by mid-infrared spectrometry, and 7 FA groups. Data were from 34,468 first-lactation Holstein cows in 862 herds in the Walloon region of Belgium and were collected between 2007 and 2010. Test-day records were merged with daily temperature-humidity index (THI) values based on meteorological records from public weather stations. The maximum distance between each farm and its corresponding weather station was 21km. Linear reaction norm models were used to estimate the intercept and slope responses of 23 traits to increasing THI values. Most yield and FA traits had phenotypic and genetic declines as THI increased, whereas SCS, C18:0, C18:1 cis-9, and 4 FA groups (unsaturated FA, monounsaturated FA, polyunsaturated FA, and long-chain FA) increased with THI. Moreover, the latter traits had the largest slope-to-intercept genetic variance ratios, which indicate that they are more affected by heat stress at high THI levels. Estimates of genetic correlations within trait between cold and hot environments were generally high (>0.80). However, lower estimates (<=0.67) were found for SCS, fat yield, and C18:1 cis-9, indicating that animals with the highest genetic merit for those traits in cold environments do not necessarily have the highest genetic merit for the same traits in hot environments. Among all traits, C18:1 cis-9 was the most sensitive to heat stress. As this trait is known to reflect body reserve mobilization, using its variations under hot conditions could be a very affordable milk biomarker of heat stress for dairy cattle expressing the equilibrium between intake and mobilization under warm conditions.