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PHOTOPERIOD AND IMMUNE FUNCTION IN DAIRY CATTLE

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Pp. 020-025 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference (Fort Worth, Texas USA)  701P0203.(doi:10.13031/2013.11597)
Authors:   G. E. Dahl, T. L. Auchtung, J. L. Salak-Johnson, and D. E. Morin
Keywords:   Photoperiod, Immune function, Prolactin, Dairy cattle

Photoperiod management of dairy cows is an effective method to improve production efficiency. Long days (16L: 8D) increase milk production in lactating cows, whereas short day (8L: 16D) exposure during the dry period improves production in the subsequent lactation. Long days also increase growth and hasten puberty in prepubertal calves. In addition to these effects on growth, reproduction, and lactation, emerging data suggest that immune function is influenced by photoperiod. Specifically, short day exposure increases lymphocyte proliferation in calves, and this effect is reversible with a transition to long days. This immune response is associated with photoperiod driven shifts in secretion of and sensitivity to the hormone prolactin, which has previously been implicated as an immune system modifier. These data support the concept that an animal’s environment can affect not only performance, but also health and well-being.

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