Differences in thermoregulatory ability between slick-haired and wild-type lactating Holstein cows in response to acute heat stress

Dikmen S., Alava E., Pontes E., Fear J. M. , Dikmen B., Olson T. A. , ...More

JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE, vol.91, no.9, pp.3395-3402, 2008 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 91 Issue: 9
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.3168/jds.2008-1072
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.3395-3402
  • Keywords: heat stress, Holstein, slick hair gene, sweating and respiration rate, DAIRY-CATTLE, GENETIC COMPONENT, SOMATOTROPIN


Animals inheriting the slick hair gene have a short, sleek, and sometimes glossy coat. The objective of the present study was to determine whether slick-haired Holstein cows regulate body temperature more effectively than wild-type Holstein cows when exposed to an acute increase in heat stress. Lactating slick cows (n = 10) and wild-type cows (n = 10) were placed for 10 h in an indoor environment with a solid roof, fans, and evaporative cooling or in an outdoor environment with shade cloth and no fans or evaporative cooling. Cows were exposed to both environments in a single reversal design. Vaginal temperature, respiration rate, surface temperature, and sweating rate were measured at 1200, 1500, 1800, and 2100 h (replicate 1) or 1200 and 1500 h (replicate 2), and blood samples were collected for plasma cortisol concentration. Cows in the outdoor environment had higher vaginal and surface temperatures, respiration rates, and sweating rates than cows in the indoor environment. In both environments, slick-haired cows had lower vaginal temperatures (indoor: 39.0 vs. 39.4 degrees C; outdoor 39.6 vs. 40.2 degrees C; SEM = 0.07) and respiration rate (indoor: 67 vs. 79 breaths/min; outdoor 97 vs. 107 breaths/min; SEM = 5.5) than wild-type cows and greater sweating rates in unclipped areas of skin (indoor: 57 vs. 43 g.h(-1)/m(2); outdoor 82 vs. 61 g.h(-1)/m(2); SEM = 8). Clipping the hair at the site of sweating measurement eliminated the difference between slick-haired and wild-type cows. Results indicate that slick-haired Holstein cows can regulate body temperature more effectively than wild-type cows during heat stress. One reason slick-haired animals are better able to regulate body temperature is increased sweating rate.