Heat stress develops with increased total-tract gut permeability, and dietary organic acid and pure botanical supplementation partly restores lactation performance in Holstein dairy cows

J Dairy Sci. 2022 Sep;105(9):7842-7860. doi: 10.3168/jds.2022-21820. Epub 2022 Aug 2.


To evaluate the effects of heat stress (HS) conditions and dietary organic acid and pure botanical (OA/PB) supplementation on gut permeability and milk production, we enrolled 46 multiparous Holstein cows [208 ± 4.65 dry matter intake (DMI; mean ± SD), 3.0 ± 0.42 lactation, 122 ± 4.92 d pregnant, and 39.2 ± 0.26 kg of milk yield] in a study with a completely randomized design. Cows were assigned to 1 of 4 groups: thermoneutral conditions (TN-Con, n = 12), HS conditions (HS-Con, n = 12), thermoneutral conditions pair-fed to HS-Con (TN-PF, n = 12), or HS supplemented with OA/PB [75 mg/kg of body weight (BW); 25% citric acid, 16.7% sorbic acid, 1.7% thymol, 1.0% vanillin, and 55.6% triglyceride; HS-OAPB, n = 10]. Supplements were delivered twice daily by top-dress; all cows not supplemented with OA/PB received an equivalent amount of the triglyceride used for microencapsulation of the OA/PB supplement as a top-dress. Cows were maintained in thermoneutrality [temperature-humidity index (THI) = 68] during a 7-d acclimation and covariate period. Thereafter, cows remained in thermoneutral conditions or were moved to HS conditions (THI: diurnal change 74 to 82) for 14 d. Cows were milked twice daily. Clinical assessments and BW were recorded, blood was sampled, and gastrointestinal permeability measurements were repeatedly evaluated. The mixed model included fixed effects of treatment, time, and their interaction. Rectal and skin temperatures and respiration rates were greater in HS-Con and HS-OAPB relative to TN-Con. Dry matter intake, water intake, and yields of energy-corrected milk (ECM), protein, and lactose were lower in HS-Con relative to HS-OAPB. Nitrogen efficiency was improved in HS-OAPB relative to HS-Con. Compared with TN-Con and TN-PF, milk yield and ECM were lower in HS-Con cows. Total-tract gastrointestinal permeability measured at d 3 of treatment was greater in HS-Con relative to TN-Con or TN-PF. Plasma total fatty acid concentrations were reduced, whereas insulin concentrations were increased in HS-Con relative to TN-PF. We conclude that exposure to a heat-stress environment increases total-tract gastrointestinal permeability. This study highlights important mechanisms that might account for milk production losses caused by heat stress, independent of changes in DMI. Our observations also suggest that dietary supplementation of OA/PB is a means to partly restore ECM production and improve nitrogen efficiency in dairy cattle experiencing heat stress.

Keywords: heat stress; leaky gut; organic acid.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases* / metabolism
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Heat Stress Disorders* / metabolism
  • Heat Stress Disorders* / veterinary
  • Heat-Shock Response
  • Hot Temperature
  • Lactation
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Pregnancy
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Triglycerides
  • Nitrogen