Comparing dairy farm milk yield and components, somatic cell score, and reproductive performance among United States regions using summer to winter ratios

Jenna M. Guinn, D. T. Nolan, P. D. Krawczel, C. S. Petersson-Wolfe, G. M. Pighetti, A. E. Stone, S. H. Ward, J. M. Bewley, Joao H.C. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heat stress abatement is a challenge for dairy producers in the United States, especially in the southern states. Thus, managing heat stress is critical to maintain dairy cow performance in the summer. The ability to employ a metric to measure heat stress and evaluate abatement strategies may benefit dairy producers by providing meaningful feedback on the effectiveness of current and future management strategies with the goal of improving heat stress management. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the use of the summer to winter performance ratio metric to quantify and compare farm performance variables among regions of the United States. Monthly performance data recorded by the Dairy Herd Improvement Association from 2007 to 2016, for all US Dairy Herd Improvement Association herds processing records through Dairy Records Management Systems (Raleigh, NC), were obtained. Season dates were based on the astronomical definition of the Northern Hemisphere with summer as June 21 to September 21 and winter as December 21 to March 19. States were grouped into regions based on climate zone classification. Performance records included a total of 16,573 herds [Northeast (n = 7,955), Midwest (n = 6,555), Northern Plains (n = 305), Southeast (n = 1,370), and Southern Plains (n = 388) regions]. Herd test day performance variables energy-corrected milk, somatic cell score, milk fat and protein percentage, conception rate, heat detection rate, and pregnancy rate in summer and winter were used to calculate summer to winter ratios for each region. The MIXED procedure of SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) was used to compare test day performance variables. The effects of year, mean days in milk, mean 150-d milk, mean herd size, and number of milkings per day were included as covariates in the models. Dairy cattle performance in all climate regions was negatively affected by summer heat stress, but some regions greater than others. A difference was also observed among regions when comparing summer to winter ratios for each performance parameter. This indicates that summer performance varies by climate region identified by the summer to winter ratio and demonstrates usefulness of the metric to monitor degree of heat stress based on performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11777-11785
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • benchmark
  • dairy cattle
  • management
  • thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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