Prevalence and risk factors for stillbirths in Holstein cows in a hot environment

Miguel Mellado, María I. Chávez, Ulises Macías-Cruz, Leonel Avendaño-Reyes, Evaristo Carrillo, José E. García


Risk factors for stillbirth were studied in a dairy operation in northern Mexico (25°N). Data set consisted of 29406 full term calving records. Factors affecting stillbirths were analyzed using a step-wise multivariable logistic regression models. The predictive indicators of stillbirth risk were: temperature-humidity index (THI) during pregnancy and at calving, season of calving, calf birth weight, gestation length, semen characteristics (conventional or sexed), gender of calves, hour of calving and type of parturition (normal or dystocic). Throughout the study period, 7.3 (95%, confidence interval= 7.0–7.6) of every 100 calving events had a stillborn calf. Stillborns were higher with severe dystocia compared with non-assisted births (29.0% vs. 6.2%, p<0.0001) and calves with birth weights <35 kg compared with heavier calves at calving (19.3% vs. 2.3%, p<0.0001), and was lower in calves whose gestation length was >278 d compared with calves with shorter gestation periods (2.8% vs. 30.0%, p<0.0001). Cows in a severe state of heat stress prenatally and at birth (THI >83 units) had 1.3 higher risk of stillbirths than cows suffering reduced heat stress (p<0.0001). Evidence for a greater (p<0.001) stillbirth rates in cows with parturitions between 18:00 and 19:00 h compared with cows calving during other hours of the day was found (9.1% vs. 7.1%). Together, these results demonstrate that ameliorating heat stress during the peripartum period is an important management practice to reduce stillbirths in Holstein cows in this warm climate. Additionally, a greater attention of parturition around sunset can lower the current stillbirth rates.


heat stress; sexed semen; birth weight; dystocia; gestation length

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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2017152-10293