Defining and evaluating heat stress thresholds in different dairy cow production systems
The aim of this study was to assess the impact of heat stress in dairy cows on test-day records for production traits and somatic cell score (SCS) in the state of Lower Saxony, Germany. Three different production systems were defined: A production system characterized by intensive crop production (=indoor housing), a pasture based production system, and a maritime region. Heat stress was assessed by two temperature-humidity indices (THI) modelled as random regression coefficients in an analysis of variance: One (THI Bo) was defined as an average of hourly THI, calculated from hourly recorded temperatures and humidities, the other (THI Ra) was based on daily maximal temperature and daily minimal humidity. In all production systems, THI Bo=60 and THI Ra=70 were identified as general thresholds denoting a substantial decline in test-day milk yield. For daily fat and protein percentage, no universally valid thresholds were identified. In contrast for SCS, especially in the maritime region, heat stress as well as cold stress thresholds were found. Regression analysis was used to study the change in test day milk yield in response to THI of those THI ranges with an obvious decline in milk yield. Regression coefficients were −0.08 kg/THI Bo and −0.16 kg/THI Ra for the crop production system, −0.17 kg/THI Bo and −0.23 kg/THI Ra for the pasture based system, and −0.26 kg/THI Bo and −0.47kg/THI Ra for the maritime region. Based on statistical information criteria, identified thresholds for THI Bo should be given preference over THI Ra when applying genetic studies on heat stress in German Holstein cows.