Heat Stress and Reproduction

  • Anjali Aggarwal
  • Ramesh Upadhyay


Heat stress induces infertility in farm animals and represents a major source of economic loss to the livestock sector. The decrease in animal fertility is caused by elevated body temperature that influences ovarian functions, oestrous expression, oocyte health and embryonic development. Protection from heat stress during dry period is particularly crucial for a high-producing cow since it involves mammary gland involution and subsequent deve­lopment, rapid fetal growth and induction of lactation. Cows and cycling buffaloes under heat stress have lower plasma inhibin concentrations, reflecting reduced folliculogenesis, since a significant proportion of plasma inhibin comes from small- and medium-sized follicles. Concentrations of plasma FSH are higher during the preovulatory period in summer and are associated with lower circulating concentrations of inhibin. The neuroendocrine mechanisms controlling gonadotrophin secretion are more sensitive to heat stress particularly in animals with low concentrations of plasma oestradiol. Environmental temperature and humidity 2 days prior to insemination is critical for conception than at any other phase of the reproductive cycle. A rise in rectal temperature diverts blood from the visceral organs to the peripheral circulation due to redistribution of blood to alleviate heat, which could reduce perfusion of nutrients and hormones to the endometrial and oviductal tissues affecting reproductive functions. In terms of steroid production, the thecal cells are more susceptible than granulosa cells to heat stress and express a delayed effect of heat stress in both medium-sized and preovulatory follicles. A rise in testicular temperature in bulls similar to other mammals with external testes leads to reduced sperm output, decreased sperm motility and an increased proportion of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa in the ejaculate. X and Y spermatozoa are affected differentially by high temperature. The plasma concentrations of insulin, IGF-I and glucose are low in summer months compared to winter months () probably because of low dry matter intake and increased negative energy balance. Insulin is required for the development of follicles and has beneficial effects on oocyte quality. Genetic selection for heat adaptability, both natural and artificial, is likely to modulate the impact of heat stress on reproductive functions, and therefore, genetic selection for thermal tolerance may be a necessity under climate change conditions.


Heat Stress Luteinising Hormone Corpus Luteum Follicular Fluid Body Condition Score 


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anjali Aggarwal
    • 1
  • Ramesh Upadhyay
    • 1
  1. 1.Dairy Cattle Physiology DivisionNational Dairy Research InstituteKarnalIndia

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