Genes and models for estimating genetic parameters for heat tolerance in dairy cattle

Dairy cattle are highly susceptible to heat stress. Heat stress causes a decline in milk yield, reduced dry matter intake, reduced fertility rates, and alteration of physiological traits (e.g., respiration rate, rectal temperature, heart rates, pulse rates, panting score, sweating rates, and drooling score) and other biomarkers (oxidative heat stress biomarkers and stress response genes). Considering the significant effect of global warming on dairy cattle farming, coupled with the aim to reduce income losses of dairy cattle farmers and improve production under hot environment, there is a need to develop heat tolerant dairy cattle that can grow, reproduce and produce milk reasonably under the changing global climate and increasing temperature. The identification of heat tolerant dairy cattle is an alternative strategy for breeding thermotolerant dairy cattle for changing climatic conditions. This review synthesizes information pertaining to quantitative genetic models that have been applied to estimate genetic parameters for heat tolerance and relationship between measures of heat tolerance and production and reproductive performance traits in dairy cattle. Moreover, the review identified the genes that have been shown to influence heat tolerance in dairy cattle and evaluated the possibility of using them in genomic selection programmes. Combining genomics information with environmental, physiological, and production parameters information is a crucial strategy to understand the mechanisms of heat tolerance while breeding heat tolerant dairy cattle adapted to future climatic conditions. Thus, selection for thermotolerant dairy cattle is feasible.

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