Hair cortisol concentrations (HCCs) and hair progesterone concentrations (HPCs) allow monitoring long-term retrospective steroid levels. However, there are still gaps in the knowledge of the mechanisms of steroid deposition in hair and its potential application in dairy cattle research. This study aimed to evaluate the potential uses of hair steroid determinations by studying the interrelations between HCC, HPC, physiological data from cows, and their milk production and quality. Cortisol and progesterone concentrations were analyzed in hair from 101 milking Holstein Friesian cows in a commercial farm. Physiological data were obtained from the 60 d prior to hair collection. Moreover, productive data from the month when hair was collected and the previous one were also obtained as well as at 124 d after hair sampling. Significant but weak correlations were found between HCC and HPC (r = 0.25, P < 0.0001) and between HPC and age (r = 0.06, P = 0.0133). High HCC were associated with low milk yields from the 2 previous months to hair sampling (P = 0.0396) and during the whole lactation (P < 0.0001). High HCC were also related to high somatic cell count (P = 0.0241). No effect of HCC on fat or protein content was detected. No significant correlations were detected between hair steroid concentrations and pregnancy status, days of gestation, parturition category (primiparous vs multiparous), number of lactations or days in milk. The relationship between physiological variables and HCC or HPC could depend on the duration of the time period over which hair accumulates hormones. Steroid concentrations in hair present high variability between individuals but are a potential tool for dairy cattle welfare and production research by providing a useful and practical tool for long-term steroid monitoring.
- Dairy cattle
- Milk production