The SLICK haplotype (http://omia.angis.org.au/OMIA001372/9913/) in cattle confers animals with a short and sleek hair coat. Originally identified in Senepol cattle, the gene has been introduced into Holsteins. The objectives of the current study were to determine (1) whether lactating Holsteins with the slick hair phenotype have superior ability for thermoregulation compared with wild-type cows or relatives not inheriting the SLICK haplotype, and (2) whether seasonal depression in milk yield would be reduced in SLICK cows. In experiment 1, diurnal variation in vaginal temperature in the summer was monitored for cows housed in a freestall barn with fans and sprinklers. Vaginal temperatures were lower in slick-haired cows than in relatives and wild-type cows. In experiment 2, acute responses to heat stress were monitored after cows were moved to a dry lot in which the only heat abatement was shade cloth. The increases in rectal temperature and respiration rate caused by heat stress during the day were lower for slick cows than for relatives or wild-type cows. Moreover, sweating rate was higher for slick cows than for cows of the other 2 types. In experiment 3, effects of season of calving (summer vs. winter) on milk yield and composition were determined. Compared with milk yield of cows calving in winter, milk yield during the first 90 d in milk was lower for cows calving in the summer. However, this reduction was less pronounced for slick cows than for wild-type cows. In conclusion, Holsteins with slick hair have superior thermoregulatory ability compared with non-slick animals and experience a less drastic depression in milk yield during the summer.
Keywords: SLICK locus; body temperature; heat stress; milk yield.
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