Two experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that electric and magnetic field (EMF) exposure may result in endocrine responses similar to those observed in animals exposed to long days. In the first experiment, 16 lactating, pregnant Holstein cows were assigned to two replicates according to a crossover design with treatment switchback. All animals were confined to wooden metabolic cages and maintained under short day photoperiods (8 h light/16 h dark). Treated animals were exposed to a vertical electric field of 10 kV/m and a horizontal magnetic field of 30 microT (EMF) for 16 h/day for 4 weeks. In a second, similar experiment, 16 nonlactating, nonpregnant Holstein cows subjected to short days were exposed to EMF, using a similar protocol, for periods corresponding to the duration of one estrous cycle. In the first experiment, circulating MLT concentrations during the light period showed a small numerical decrease during EMF exposure (P < .05). Least-square means for the 8 h light period were 9.9 versus 12.4 pg/ml, SE = 1.3. Melatonin concentrations during the dark period were not affected by the treatment. A similar trend was observed in the second experiment, where MLT concentrations during the light period tended to be lower (8.8 pg/ml vs. 16.3 pg/ml, P < .06) in the EMF exposed group, and no effects were observed during the dark period. Plasma prolactin (PRL) was increased in the EMF exposed group (16.6 vs. 12.7 ng/ml, P < .02) in the first experiment. In the second experiment, the overall PRL concentrations found were lower, and the mean plasma PRL concentration was not affected by treatment. These experiments provide evidence that EMF exposure may modify the response of dairy cows to photoperiod.
2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.