Effects of photoperiod during the dry period on cellular immune function of dairy cows

T. L. Auchtung, J. L. Salak-Johnson, D. E. Morin, C. C. Mallard, G. E. Dahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies suggest that exposure of cattle to photoperiod can influence immune function. The objective of this study was to determine whether treatment of cows with short day photoperiod (SDPP; 8 h light: 16 h darkness) during the dry period alters immune function, relative to cows subjected to a long day photoperiod (LDPP; 16 h light: 8 h darkness). Multiparous Holstein cows (n = 39) were dried 62 d before calving and exposed to photoperiod treatment until parturition; thereafter, cows were exposed to natural photoperiod. General health was monitored weekly during the dry period and cellular immune function was examined monthly during the dry period and at calving. Concentrations of prolactin and cortisol were measured from 10 d before calving to 2 d after calving. The periparturient prolactin surge in plasma was greater in LDPP cows (54.6 ng/ mL) than SDPP (22.4 ng/mL). Relative to LDPP cows, neutrophil chemotaxis and lymphocyte proliferation were enhanced in SDPP cows during the dry period. Neutrophil chemotaxis averaged 142.5 and 178.8 cells/ well during the dry period for LDPP and SDPP, respectively. Lymphocyte proliferation during the dry period averaged 197.6 and 326.5% for LDPP and SDPP cows, respectively. Physiological characteristics of the cows were not affected by treatment during the dry period. However, differences between treatments were observed within 2 d of parturition. Potential implications of photoperiod management for cow health and well-being merit further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3683-3689
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Dry period
  • Immune function
  • Photoperiod

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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