Effects of in utero heat stress on subsequent reproduction performance of first-calf Holstein heifers

  • María I. Chavez Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Veterinary Science, Torreon, Coahuila, 27054
  • José E. García Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Animal Nutrition, Saltillo, Coahuila, 25315
  • Francisco G. Véliz Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Veterinary Science, Torreon, Coahuila, 27054
  • Leticia R. Gaytán Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Veterinary Science, Torreon, Coahuila, 27054
  • Ángeles de Santiago Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Veterinary Science, Torreon, Coahuila, 27054
  • Miguel Mellado Autonomous Agrarian University Antonio Narro, Dept. Animal Nutrition, Saltillo, Coahuila, 25315
Keywords: conception rate, twining rate, services per pregnancy, age at first calving, fetal losses


Aim of study: To determine the reproductive performance of heifers gestated under maternal conditions of heat stress in late gestation.

Area of study: Northern Mexico (25° 32’ N, 103° 23’ W).

Material and methods: The study included reproductive records of 4976 first-calf Holstein heifers in a hot environment.

Main results: Heifers born to cows experiencing no heat stress three months before parturition but with a THI >83 at calving were older (p<0.05) at first calving (743 ± 67 vs. 729 ± 55 days) than heifers gestated under maternal conditions of heat stress. A two-fold increase (p<0.01) in pregnancy rate occurred in heifers gestated under maternal conditions of no heat stress during two or three months before pregnancy and no heat stress at parturition, compared with heifers gestated under maternal conditions of no heat stress. Overall, across in utero heat stress one, two or three months before calving, pregnancy rate to all services was higher (p<0.05) for first-calf heifers gestated under maternal conditions of no heat stress during delivery, compared with heifers gestated under maternal conditions of heat stress (66.7 vs. 51.1%). Median days for getting pregnant was higher (140 d) for heifers whose dams were exposed to THI >83 at calving than heifers whose mothers were exposed to <76 or 76-83 (117 and 114 d) at calving.

Research highlights: These data suggest that in utero heat stress during the last three months of gestation negatively affects the reproductive performance of first-calf Holstein heifers.


Download data is not yet available.


Ahmed BMS, Younas U, Asar TO, Dikmen S, Hansen PJ, Dahl GE, 2017. Cows exposed to heat stress during fetal life exhibit improved thermal tolerance. J Anim Sci 95: 3497-3503. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2016.1298

Bach A, 2011. Associations between several aspects of heifer development and dairy cow survivability to second lactation. J Dairy Sci 94: 1052-1057. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2010-3633

Bell AW, McBride BW, Slepetis R, Early RJ, Currie WB, 1989. Chronic heat stress and prenatal development in sheep: I. Conceptus growth and maternal plasma hormones and metabolites. J Anim Sci 67: 3289-3299. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas1989.67123289x

Bohmanova J, Misztal I, Cole JB, 2007. Temperature-humidity indices as indicators of milk production losses due to heat stress. J Dairy Sci 90: 1947-1956. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2006-513

Davis Rincker LE, VandeHaar MJ, Wolf CA, Liesman JS, Chapin LT, Weber Nielsen MS, 2011. Effect of intensified feeding of heifer calves on growth, pubertal age, calving age, milk yield, and economics. J Dairy Sci 94: 3554-3567. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2010-3923

Dikmen S, Hansen PJ, 2009. Is the temperature-humidity index the best indicator of heat stress in lactating dairy cows in a subtropical environment? J Dairy Sci 92: 109-116. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2008-1370

Edmonson AJ, Lean IJ, Weaver LD, Farver T, Webster G, 1989. A body condition scoring chart for Holstein dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 72: 68-78. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(89)79081-0

Ettema JF, Santos JEP, 2004. Impact of age at calving on lactation, reproduction, health, and income in first parity Holsteins on commercial farms. J Dairy Sci 87: 2730-2742. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(04)73400-1

Flores J, García JE, Mellado J, Gaytán L, De Santiago A, Mellado M, 2019. Effect of growth hormone on milk yield and reproductive performance of subfertile Holstein cows during extended lactations. Span J Agric Res 17 (1): e0403. https://doi.org/10.5424/sjar/2019171-13842

Flouris AD, Spiropoulos Y, Sakellariou GJ, Koutedakis Y, 2009. Effect of seasonal programming on fetal development and longevity: links with environmental temperature. Am J Human Biol 21: 214-216. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.20818

Fodor I, Baumgartner W, Abonyi-Tóth Z, Lang Z, Ózsvári L, 2018. Associations between management practices and major reproductive parameters of Holstein-Friesian replacement heifers. Anim Reprod Sci 188: 114-122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anireprosci.2017.11.015

Fowden AL, Li J, Forhead AJ, 1998. Glucocorticoids and the preparation for life after birth: are there long-term consequences of the life insurance? Proc Nutr Soc 57: 113-122. https://doi.org/10.1079/PNS19980017

Gabory A, Attig L, Junien C, 2011. Developmental programming and epigenetics. Am J Clin Nutr 94: 1943S-1952S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.000927

Guo JR, Monteiro APA, Weng XS, Ahmed BM, Laporta J, Hayen MJ, Dahl GE, Bernard JK, Tao S, 2016. Short communication: Effect of maternal heat stress in late gestation on blood hormones and metabolites of newborn calves. J Dairy Sci 99: 6804-6807. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11088

Hansen PJ, 2009. Effects of heat stress on mammalian reproduction. Philos Trans R Soc London B. 364: 3341-3350. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2009.0131

Harding JE, Johnson B, 1995. Nutrition and fetal growth. Reprod Fert Dev 7: 538-547. https://doi.org/10.1071/RD9950539

Jammes H, Junien C, Chavatte-Palmer P, 2011. Epigenetic control of development and expression of quantitative traits. Reprod Fertil Dev 23: 64-74. https://doi.org/10.1071/RD10259

Kaufman JD, Saxton AM, Ríus AG, 2018. Short communication: Relationships among temperature-humidity index with rectal, udder surface, and vaginal temperatures in lactating dairy cows experiencing heat stress. J Dairy Sci 101: 6424-6429. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2017-13799

Kindahl H, Kornmatitsuk B, Königsson K, Gustafsson H, 2002. Endocrine changes in late bovine pregnancy with special emphasis on fetal well-being. Dom Anim Endocrinol 23: 321-328. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0739-7240(02)00167-4

Laporta J, Fabris TF, Skibiel AL, Powell JL, Hayen MJ, Horvath K, Miller-Cushon EK, Dahl GE, 2017. In utero exposure to heat stress during late gestation has prolonged effects on the activity patterns and growth of dairy calves. J Dairy Sci 100: 1-9. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11993

Mader TL, Davis MS, Brown-Brandl T, 2006. Environmental factors influencing heat stress in feedlot cattle. J Anim Sci 84: 712-719. https://doi.org/10.2527/2006.843712x

Mellado M, Sepulveda E, Meza-Herrera C, Veliz F, Arevalo J, Mellado J, De Santiago A, 2013. Effects of heat stress on reproductive efficiency of high yielding Holstein cows in a hot-arid environment. Rev Colomb Cienc Pec 26: 193-200.

Mellado M, López R, de Santiago A, Veliz FG, Macías-Cruz U, Avendaño-Reyes L, García JE, 2016. Climatic conditions, twining and frequency of milking as factors affecting the risk of fetal losses in high-yielding Holstein cows in a hot environment. Trop Anim Health Prod 48: 1247-1252. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-016-1084-8

Moghaddam A, Karimi IP, 2009. Effects of short-term cooling on pregnancy rate of dairy heifers under summer heat stress. Vet Res Commun 33: 567-575. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11259-009-9205-8

Monteiro APA, Tao S, Thompson IM, Dahl GE, 2014. 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 97: 6426-6439. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2013-7891

Monteiro APA, Guo JR, Weng X, Ahmed BM, Hayen MJ, Dahl GE, Bernard JK, 2016. Effect of maternal heat stress during the dry period on growth and metabolism of calves. J Dairy Sci 99: 3896-3907. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2015-10699

Norman HD, Wright JR, Hubbard SM, Miller RH, Hutchison JL, 2009. Reproductive status of Holstein and Jersey cows in the United States. J Dairy Sci 92: 3517-3528. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2008-1768

NRC, 2001. Nutrient requirements of dairy cattle, 7th rev. ed. National Research Council, National Academic Science, Washington, DC, USA.

Pontes GCS, Monteiro PLJ, Prata AB, Guardieiro MM, Pinto DAM, Fernandes GO, Wiltbank MC, Santos JE Sartori R, 2015. Effect of injectable vitamin E on incidence of retained fetal membranes and reproductive performance of dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 98: 2437-2449. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2014-8886

Sakatani M, Yamanaka K, Balboula AZ, Takenouchi N, Takahashi M, 2015. Heat stress during in vitro fertilization decreases fertilization success by disrupting anti-polyspermy systems of the oocytes. Mol Reprod Dev 82: 36-47. https://doi.org/10.1002/mrd.22441

Sandman CA, Glynn L, Wadhwa PD, Chicz-DeMet A, Porto M, Garite T, 2003. Maternal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation during the third trimester influences human fetal responses. Dev Neurosci 25: 41-49. https://doi.org/10.1159/000071467

Sartori R, Rosa GJ, Wiltbank MC, 2002. Ovarian structures and circulating steroid in heifers and lactating cows in summer and lactating and dry cows in winter. J Dairy Sci 85: 2813-2822. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(02)74368-3

Skibiel AL, Peñagaricano F, Amorín R, Ahmed BM, Dahl GE, Laporta J, 2018. In utero heat stress alters the offspring epigenome. Sci Rep 8 (1): 14609. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-32975-1

Souza-Cácares MB, Fialho ALL, Silva WAL, Cardoso CJT, Pöhland R, Martins MIM, Melo-Sterza FA, 2019. Oocyte quality and heat shock proteins in oocytes from bovine breeds adapted to the tropics under different conditions of environmental thermal stress. Theriogenology 130: 103-110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2019.02.039

Tao S, Dahl GE, 2013. Invited review: Heat stress effects during late gestation on dry cows and their calves. J Dairy Sci 96: 4079-4093. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2012-6278

Tao S, Monteiro APA, Thompson IM, Hayen MJ, Dahl GE, 2012. Effect of late-gestation maternal heat stress on growth and immune function of dairy calves. J Dairy Sci 95: 7128-7136. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2012-5697

Tillard E, Humblot P, Faye B, Lecomte P, Dohoo I, Bocquier F, 2008. Postcalving factors affecting conception risk in Holstein dairy cows in tropical and subtropical conditions. Theriogenology 69: 443-457. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2007.10.014

Wolfenson D, Roth Z, 2019. Impact of heat stress on cow reproduction and fertility. Anim Front 9: 32-38. https://doi.org/10.1093/af/vfy027

How to Cite
Chavez, M. I., García, J. E., Véliz, F. G., Gaytán, L. R., de Santiago, Ángeles, & Mellado, M. (2020). Effects of in utero heat stress on subsequent reproduction performance of first-calf Holstein heifers. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research, 18(2), e0404. https://doi.org/10.5424/sjar/2020182-15721
Animal breeding, genetics and reproduction

Most read articles by the same author(s)