Animals under environmental thermal stress conditions have reduced fertility due to impairment of some mechanisms involved in their reproductive performance that are different in males and females. As a consequence, the most sensitive periods of time and the magnitude of effect of temperature on fertility can differ between sexes. The objective of this study was to estimate separately the effect of temperature in different periods around the insemination time on male and on female fertility by using the product threshold model. This model assumes that an observed reproduction outcome is the result of the product of 2 unobserved variables corresponding to the unobserved fertilities of the 2 individuals involved in the mating. A total of 7,625 AI records from rabbits belonging to a line selected for growth rate and indoor daily temperature records were used. The average maximum daily temperature and the proportion of days in which the maximum temperature was greater than 25°C were used as temperature descriptors. These descriptors were calculated for several periods around the day of AI. In the case of males, 4 periods of time covered different stages of the spermatogenesis, the transit through the epididymus of the sperm, and the day of AI. For females, 5 periods of time covered the phases of pre-ovulatory follicular maturation including day of AI and ovulation, fertilization and peri-implantational stage of the embryos, embryonic and early fetal periods of gestation, and finally, late gestation until birth. The effect of the different temperature descriptors was estimated in the corresponding male and female liabilities in a set of threshold product models. The temperature of the day of AI seems to be the most relevant temperature descriptor affecting male fertility because greater temperature records on the day of AI caused a decrease in male fertility (-6% in male fertility rate with respect to thermoneutrality). Departures from the thermal zone in temperature descriptors covering several periods before AI until early gestation had a negative effect on female fertility, with the pre- and peri-implantational period of the embryos being especially sensitive (from -5 to -6% in female fertility rate with respect to thermoneutral-ity). The latest period of gestation was unaffected by the temperature. Overall, magnitude and persistency of the temperatures reached in the conditions of this study do not seem to be great enough to have a large effect on male and female rabbit fertility. © 2011 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
- Heat stress
- Prot threshold model