The deleterious effects of heat stress on animal health are being increasingly recognized. This study aimed to determine hair cortisol (HC) and serotonin levels in lactating Holstein cows under heat stress conditions with different coat and hair-cut color. Forty-five multiparous lactating Holstein cows (days in milk = 130 ± 47, body weight = 753 ± 85 kg) were divided to two main groups of over 80% black coat color (BC) and over 85% white coat color (WC) visually observed based on registry certificates and subdividing to black hair sample (BH) and white hair samples (WH) in 2 × 2 factorial arrangements. Hair samples were taken from the forehead of the individuals. Higher HC levels were observed in BC than WC cows (P < 0.05). No differences were found in HC levels between BH and WH groups (P > 0.05). Serotonin levels showed no difference between BC and WC (P > 0.05). Interaction between coat color and hair color was not significant (P > 0.05). The cortisol levels in hair are not affected by pigmentation. However, pigmentation within the coat alters cortisol levels. In conclusion, white coat color retains less cortisol than the black coat. Therefore, white coats are preferable for dairy cows under heat stress conditions.
Key words: coat color, hair color, hair cortisol, heat stress, serotonin.
Abstract originally published in Animal Science Journal (2017) 88, 190–194 doi:10.1111/asj.12662.