A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of thermal indices and relationship with milk yield in dairy cows using invasive (glucose, total cholesterol, triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and inorganic phosphate) and non-invasive (Rectal temperature (RT), respiration rate (RR), ear temperature (ET) and skin temperature (ST) markers in the Sahel Savannah of Nigeria. Fifteen (15) clinically healthy dairy cows of three breeds; five each from Holstein Friesian purebred, Simmental and Brown Swiss, aged 5-8 years from Sebore Farms were used for the experiment. The animals were maintained on similar feeding programme under hot-dry and cold-dry season. Data collected includes thermoregulatory variables: Rectal temperature, respiration rate, ear temperature and skin temperature), blood biochemical variables (glucose, inorganic phosphate, total cholesterol, triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT), daily milk yield and milk component traits (protein and fat percentage). All the thermoregulatory parameter values differed significantly (P<0.05) between the seasons with the exception of ear temperaturewhich was statistically similar (P>0.05). Rectal temperature, respiratory rate and skin temperature were significantly (P<0.05) higher during hot- dry season compare to cold-dry season.Glucose, ALT and AST differed significantly (P<0.05) across the breeds of dairy cows while cholesterol, phosphorus, T3 and T4 were statistically similar (P>0.05). The serum ALT was higher in Simmental (47.74±1.33iu/l) and Brown Swiss (46.59±1.33iu/l) which differed significantly (P<0.05) from Holstein Friesian cows (39.1±1.33iu/l).However, all the biochemical parameters differed significantly (P<0.05) between the cold-dry and hot-dry seasons with the exception of T3 which was statistically similar (P>0.05).Milk yield was significantly (P<0.05) higher during the cold-dry season (8.03±0.24kg)
than the hot-dry season (6.93±0.21kg) while fat (P<0.05) was significantly higher during the hot than the cold season. Holstein Friesian had the highest average daily milk value (8.16kg) while Simmental cow had the lowest milk volume (7.08kg). Simmental and Brown Swiss cows had the highest percentage of fat (4.07%) which were statistically different (P<0.05) from Holstein Friesian (3.88%). Protein showed no (P>0.05) significant difference between breeds. Daily milk yield was significant, low and negatively correlated with temperature (R=-19, P=0.0005) while moderate, significant and negative correlations was observed with THIand RH (R=-0.24, P=0.0005 and R=0.26, P=0.0061) Fat had significant, low and positive relationship with temperature (R=0.17, P=0.0019) while low and positive relationship existed with THIand RH(R=0.19, P=0.76 and R=0.12, P=0.059). Protein had low and negative correlations with all the environmental factors with the exception of temperature which was positively associated (R=0.003, P=0.9501).Daily milk yield was significant and highly correlated with phosphorus (R=0.52; p=0.02) and T4 (R=0.94; p=0.05) but significant, high and negatively correlated with T3 (R=-0.51).Cholesterol was significant, high and negatively correlated with DMY (R=-0.28). AST was significant, moderately and negatively correlated with DMY (R=-0.26). ALT was negatively correlated with DMY. The regression analysis for prediction of milk yield showed that all the invasive markers combined together best explained daily milk yield (R2= 0.52) in Brown Swiss dairy cows compare to Simmental and Holstein Friesian which were weakly predicted (R2= 0.18). The regression analysis for prediction equation using non-invasive markers, showed that all the non-invasive markers combined together explains only (R2= 0.05) of milk yield when the breeds were pooled. It was concluded that invasive parameters could be a veritable tool in predicting daily milk yield of different genotypes of dairy cows under the Sahel Savannah condition of Nigeria.
Heat stress plays a significant role in cattle performance and likely will be of even greater importance in the future as climate change continues. Cattle are produced in a wide range of environments, some of which present thermal challenges to productive performance, even survival in extreme cases. High temperatures can have negative consequences for milk production, and for reproduction, welfare and health, in dairy cattle. Especially high yielding dairy cattle would be susceptible because their thermo-neutral zone is rather limited as compared to low yielding cows (Kadzere et al., 2002). As a result of heat stress, losses of 600 to 900 kg milk per cow per lactation has been reported with regard to milk production (West, 2003).Selection of cattle adapted to warm environments represents one strategy to mitigate the effects of heat stress. There are a number of environmental factors that contribute to heat stress; these include high temperature, high humidity and solar radiation. In tropical regions, animals must be able to balance heat production and heat gain from their environments with dissipation of heat through the skin and respiratory surfaces; simultaneously, they must avoid excessive thermal energy incoming from the environment (Da-Silva et al.,2003).
The productivity and health of these animals are being affected by adverse meteorological conditions prevailing in the tropical Africa, predisposing them to hyperthermia (heat stress) and hypothermia (cold stress) (Da-Silva et al.,2003). In the tropical conditions of Nigeria, heat stress is common during dry season, occurring between November and May and with a mean monthly rainfall of less than 51mm (Igono et al., 1982; Walter, 1969). The harmattan season is characterized by marked fluctuations in ambient temperature (AT) with high AT in the afternoon
hours of the day and relatively low temperature of about 10 OC in the evening and early morning hours of the day. The season is associated with a dry cold and dust-laden wind that blows from Sahara desert and low relative humidity (RH) (Ayo et al., 1998a). The hot-dry season is also characterized by high ambient temperature, relative humidity and long duration of sunshine. Of all the stress factors adversely affecting dairy production in the tropical environment, ambient temperature manifesting in hypothermia and hyperthermia and humidity changes are the most crucial. It has been shown that high ambient temperature and high relative humidity with wide fluctuations in the values result in heat stress which may alter many physiological parameters in livestock (Ayo et al., 1998b; Sinkalu et al., 2009). These may impair homeostatic mechanisms resulting in pathological changes and alteration in body homeostasis (Teeter et al., 2005).
The general homeostatic responses to thermal stress in mammals include a decrease in fecal and urinary water losses, a reduction in feed intake and production, and an increase in sweating, respiratory and heart rates. Most of the adjustments made by the cow involve dissipating heat to the environment and reducing the production of metabolic heat (Kadzereet al., 2002). As milk production increases in dairy cattle, the metabolic heat production rises with the metabolizing of large amounts of nutrients, which makes the high producing cow more vulnerable to high environmental temperatures and humidity than animals that are metabolically less active (Kadzere et al., 2002). High producing dairy cows must dissipate large amounts of heat produced during the metabolism of high dietary energy used for body maintenance and milk synthesis. Several studies reported that heat stress in dairy cattle affects production and reproduction (Garcia-Ispierto et al., 2007; Morton et al., 2007; Bryant et al., 2007). Despite the moderate effects of THI on milk production, some blood parameters related to energy balance and enzyme activities had significant alterations and cows in the middle of lactation had the highest changes
in these parameters (Dikmen et al., 2008). These authors have indicated that the thermoregulatory characteristic of animals associated with this phenotype is probably due to a lower metabolic rate, increased sensible heat or evaporative heat loss, more efficient transfer of heat to the surface, or a combination of these adaptations. They further reported that dry bulb temperature is nearly as good a predictor of rectal temperatures of lactating Holsteins in a subtropical environment as THI. Hormones known to be homeorhetic regulators are also implicated in acclimatory responses to thermal stress. These include thyroid hormones, prolactin, somatotropin, glucocorticoids and mineralcorticoids. Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are hormones associated with metabolic homeostasis and susceptible to climatic changes (Perera et al., 1986). Johnson et al. (1988) also showed decline in thyroid hormones T3 and T4 in response to heat stress which is an attempt to reduce metabolic heat production in the cow. Stress response hormones (glucocorticoids) are elevated during initial heat stress exposure and then become depressed with prolonged periods of thermal stress. Wheelock et al. (2006) demonstrated that heat stress elevates plasma insulin concentrations in lactating dairy cows and this may be important for glucose disposal in peripheral tissues. The blood biochemical profiles are considered important in evaluating the health status of animals. The estimates of biochemical constituents are the prerequisites to diagnose several pathophysiological and metabolic disorders in cattle (McDowell et al., 1992). Numerous authors reported close relationship between blood levels of calcium, phosphate, total protein, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and reproductive traits in dairy cows (Malik et al.,2003).
There is paucity of information on the use of thermoregulatory and biochemical parameters as markers of heat stress in dairy cows reared in Northern Nigeria especially the Sahel savannah regions. Information on effect of varying environmental/climatic conditions on thermoregulatory and biochemical parameters is particularly important in Northern Nigeria as dairy milk production is generally low in this area compared to the temperate regions of the World. A study to investigate whether or not thermoregulatory and biochemical parameters could be used to estimate adaptability of exotic dairy cows to varying environmental conditions is then necessary. The vital and biochemical parameters are of significant diagnostic values for the spot assessment of health status of dairy cows. These parameters have been demonstrated to be important indices of health, production and adaptability to prevailing environmental conditions in livestock (Oladele et al., 2001; Oladele et al., 2005; Adenkola and Ayo, 2009).
The objectives of this research were to:
- Evaluate the variation in thermoregulatory(non-invasive)parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress in exotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
- Evaluate the variation in bloodbiochemical (Invasive) parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress in exotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
- To establish the relationship between milk production characteristics and blood biochemical profiles inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
- To establish prediction equations for total milk yield using invasive and non invasive parameters
H0There is no variation in thermoregulatory(non-invasive)parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
HaVariation existed in thermoregulatory(non-invasive) parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
H0There is no variation in bloodbiochemical (invasive)parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
Ha Variation existed in bloodbiochemical (invasive) parameters in acclamatory responses to thermal stress inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
Ho There is no relationship between milk production characteristics and blood biochemical profiles inexotic breeds of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
Ha There is relationship between milk production characteristics and blood biochemical profiles inexotic breed of dairy cows under Sahel (semi- arid) region of Nigeria
Ho The prediction equation for total milk yield using invasive and non-invasive parameters is weak using coefficient of determination as judgement criteria
Ha The prediction equation for total milk yield using invasive and non-invasive parameters is strong using coefficient of determination as judgement criteria.