Late-gestation seasonal effects on survival and milk production of first-lactation Holstein dairy cows



      Seasonal heat stress during late gestation influences subsequent milk yield, immunity, reproduction, and health of dairy cows. Our objective was to determine the effects of seasonal heat stress experienced by calves in utero on survival, age at first calving, and milk production during the first lactation under commercial conditions.

      Materials and Methods

      Records of 4,274 Holstein heifers born under commercial conditions in north-central Florida during 3 consecutive years were analyzed. Based on temperature-humidity index values, heifers were considered to experience in utero heat stress during late gestation when born between July and September (hot season, HS) or no in utero heat stress when born between January and March (cool season, CS).

      Results and Discussion

      Cool season heifers calved about one month earlier than HS heifers (P < 0.001). Cool season heifers tended (P = 0.08) to produce more milk and more protein (P < 0.001) than HS. There was no difference (P = 0.93) in survival to parity 1 and 2, but HS heifers had greater (P = 0.03) survival to parity 3. For survival after first calving up to 300 DIM, CS heifers had a greater survival rate compared with HS heifers (P = 0.04).

      Implications and Applications

      Although the effect of different season of calving for the HS and CS heifers cannot be ruled out given the design of the present study, results are generally consistent with the effect of in utero heat stress in controlled studies on calf health and performance at maturity. Dry cow cooling during seasonal heat stress may limit negative effects on calves in utero.

      Key words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Armstrong D.
        Heat stress interaction with shade and cooling..
        J. Dairy Sci. 1994; 77: 2044-2050
        • Collier R.J.
        • Beede D.K.
        • Thatcher W.W.
        • Israel L.A.
        • Wilcox C.J.
        Influences of environment and its modification on dairy animal health and production..
        J. Dairy Sci. 1982; 65: 2213-2227
        • Dikmen S.
        • Alava E.
        • Pontes E.
        • Fear J.M.
        • Dikmen B.Y.
        • Olson T.A.
        • Hansen P.J.
        Differences in thermoregulatory ability between slick-haired and wild-type lactating Holstein cows in response to acute heat stress..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2008; 91: 3395-3402
        • Laporta J.
        • Fabris T.F.
        • Skibiel A.L.
        • Powell J.L.
        • Hayen M.J.
        • Horvath K.
        • Miller-Cushon E.K.
        • Dahl G.E.
        In utero exposure to heat stress during late gestation has prolonged effects on the activity patterns and growth of dairy calves..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2017; 100: 2976-2984
        • Laporta J.
        • Ferreira F.C.
        • Ouellet V.
        • Dado-Senn B.
        • Almeida A.K.
        • De Vries A.
        • Dahl G.E.
        Late-gestation heat stress impairs daughter and granddaughter lifetime performance..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2020; 103: 7555-7568
        • Monteiro A.P.A.
        • Tao S.
        • Thompson I.M.T.
        • Dahl G.E.
        Effect of heat stress during late gestation on immune function and growth performance of calves: Isolation of altered colostral and calf factors..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2014; 97: 6426-6439
        • Monteiro A.P.A.
        • Tao S.
        • Thompson I.M.T.
        • Dahl G.E.
        In utero heat stress decreases calf survival and performance through the first lactation..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2016; 99: 8443-8450
        • Pirlo G.
        • Miglior F.
        • Speroni M.
        Effect of age at first calving on production traits and on difference between milk yield returns and rearing costs in Italian Holsteins..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2000; 83: 603-608
        • Ray D.E.
        • Halbach T.J.
        • Armstrong D.V.
        Season and lactation number effects on milk production and reproduction of dairy cattle in Arizona..
        J. Dairy Sci. 1992; 75: 2976-2983
        • Skibiel A.L.
        • Dado-Senn B.
        • Fabris T.F.
        • Dahl G.E.
        • Laporta J.
        In utero exposure to thermal stress has long-term effects on mammary gland microstructure and function in dairy cattle..
        PLoS One. 2018; 13 (e0206046)
        • Tao S.
        • Bubolz J.W.
        • do Amaral B.C.
        • Thompson I.M.
        • Hayen M.J.
        • Johnson S.E.
        • Dahl G.E.
        Effect of heat stress during the dry period on mammary gland development..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2011; 94: 5976-5986
        • Thompson I.M.
        • Dahl G.E.
        Dry-period seasonal effects on the subsequent lactation..
        Prof. Anim. Sci. 2012; 28: 628-631
        • Thompson I.M.T.
        • Tao S.
        • Monteiro A.P.A.
        • Jeong K.C.
        • Dahl G.E.
        Effect of cooling during the dry period on immune response after Streptococcus uberis intramammary infection challenge of dairy cows..
        J. Dairy Sci. 2014; 97: 7426-7436