Effects of heat stress on feed intake, milk yield, milk composition, and feed efficiency in dairy cows: A meta-analysis

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Heat stress compromises dairy production by decreasing feed intake and milk yield, and it may also alter milk composition and feed efficiency. However, little information is available for evaluating such effects across different levels of heat stress and cows enrolled in heat stress studies. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of heat stress on dry matter intake (DMI), energy-corrected milk (ECM), milk composition, and feed efficiency (kg ECM/kg DMI) and to investigate the relationship between such effects and heat stress intervention and animal characteristics by using meta-analytical approaches. Data from 31 studies (34 trials) fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were used for analysis. Results showed that heat stress decreased DMI, ECM, and milk protein concentration, but did not alter milk fat concentration or feed efficiency. Meta-regression confirmed that such reductions in DMI and ECM were significantly associated with increasing temperature-humidity index (THI). Over the period of heat stress, for each unit increase in THI, DMI and ECM decreased by 4.13% and 3.25%, respectively, in mid-lactation cows. Regression models further revealed the existence of a strong interaction between THI and lactation stage, which partially explained the large heterogeneity in effect sizes of DMI and ECM. The results indicated a need for more research on the relationship between the effect of heat stress and animal characteristics. This study calls for the implementation of mitigation strategies in heat-stressed herds due to the substantial decrease in productivity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)3207-3218
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2023


  • dairy cattle
  • hyperthermia
  • milk production
  • random effect


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