Metabolic acclimation to heat stress in farm housed Holstein cows with different body condition scores

  • MR Cincovic
  • B Belic
  • B Toholj
  • A Potkonjak
  • M Stevancevic
  • B Lako
  • I Radovic
Keywords: Body condition score, heat stress, metabolic status, cow


The aim of this study was to determine the effects of body condition score to metabolic acclimation in heat stressed Holstein cows. Body condition of cows had no effect on any of the tested parameters during the thermal neutral period, except for the percentage of protein in milk. Heat stress has been demonstrated to have an impact on all the selected parameters, and has been found to be the cause of decreased milk production and quality, increased rectal temperature and respiration rate, decreased glucose, non esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and cholesterol concentration, increased urea and bilirubin concentration, and loss of subcutaneous fat. Obese cows (BCS>4) had less ability of acclimation to heat stress as compared to normal and thin cows (significantly lower production and milk quality, and significantly higher rectal temperature and respiration level in relation to the other groups of cows). Obese cows showed a significantly higher concentration of NEFA and significantly lower glucose during exposure to heat stress. The steady increase in NEFA concentrations and decrease of backfat thickness suggested that fat was used for energy purposes, which significantly increased the heat balance and led to poor acclimation to heat stress in obese cows. Cows with high body condition were at higher risk of developing liver failure and lipidosis (reduced cholesterol and elevated bilirubin concentration) during heat stress, which could be linked with increased concentrations of fatty acids in the blood. This was found with an increased concentration of urea during exposure to heat stress, with significantly higher concentration in obese cows. Using the fat for energy purposes depends on the sensitivity to insulin, which increases during heat stress. Obese cows are naturally less sensitive to insulin and more prone to lipolysis. However, these signs should be the focus of future research.

Key words: Body condition score, heat stress, metabolic status, cow.


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eISSN: 1684-5315