Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Animal Science

Major Professor

J. Lannett Edwards

Committee Members

F. Neal Schrick, Sarah E. Moorey


Higher estrus associated temperatures (HEAT) are a hallmark feature in sexually active females. The overarching aim of this study was to characterize the variability, magnitude, and persistence of HEAT in heifers and suckled beef cows as well as identify associated factors when occurring during thermoneutral conditions at the onset of the spring breeding season. In both heifers and cows, estrus was induced using a seven-day controlled internal drug release (CIDR)-PGF2a protocol. Vaginal temperature after prostaglandin F2a administration was recorded every 5 min using a Thermochron iButton affixed to a blank CIDR (containing no progesterone). Estrus was defined as when a heifer first stood to be mounted or when a cow had an Estrotect patch score of 3 or 4. Level of HEAT varied among individual animals. When comparing common HEAT variables using a mixed model with date nested within year, maximum HEAT (39.9 ± 0.1 C and 40.0 ± 0.1°C) and duration (15.5 ± 0.8 and 15.4 ± 0.7) were similar in heifers and cows, respectively. However, the magnitude and persistence of HEAT differed. Total area under the HEAT curve was 117.1 ± 13.5 and 158.7 ± 12.3 for heifers vs cows, respectively (P = 0.0571). Further, 42.9% of heifers and 49% of cows had maximum HEAT ≥ 40°C which persisted up to 6.5 and 10 h, respectively. When ambient conditions were predominantly thermoneutral, temperature humidity index had minimal impact on HEAT (mixed model, repeated measures over time). Towards identifying associated factors with different aspects of HEAT using best fit hierarchical linear regression models, baseline vaginal temperature and baseline duration were the most highly associated independent variables. Follicle size, estradiol and progesterone levels, and other available animal related variables (e.g., age, weight, hair coat score) explained only a small amount of variation in HEAT. In summary, level of HEAT varies in estrus females even under thermoneutral conditions. Because HEAT can persist for an extended time, direct effects on fertility important components are unavoidable. Whether HEAT is a good or bad component of the periovulatory microenvironment is the basis of ongoing and future studies.

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