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Climatic factors and secondary sex ratio in dairy cows - support for the Trivers-Willard hypothesis in dairy cows

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 18:19 authored by Roche, JR, Lee, JM, Berry, DP
The hypothesis for this study was that the prevailing climate around the time of conception was associated with changes in the secondary sex ratio (SSR) in grazing, seasonally bred dairy cattle. Calving date, parity, cow breed, and calf sex were obtained for 8,621 lactations (with single births only) from 1,897 cows between 1970 and 2003 (inclusive). Conception date was estimated by subtracting a gestation length of 282 d from the date at calving. Climatic factors, including maximum and minimum ambient temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, sunlight hours, and evaporation rate, were averaged across the week immediately prior to conception for all lactations. Sun radiation data were available after 1976. Generalized estimating equations, with cow included as a repeated effect, were used to determine the effect of climate around the time of conception on the logit of the probability of a male calf. Breed of cow, year of conception, and parity at conception did not affect the SSR. The odds of a male calf being born were 3.74 times greater when the immediately previous calf born was male. A male calf was more likely to be born following periods of elevated air temperature, greater evaporation, or both. A 1°C increase in average maximum air temperature from the average (18.3°C), during the week immediately prior to conception, was associated with a 1-percentage unit increase in the probability of a male calf being born (i.e., from 52 to 53%). A corresponding 1°C increase in average minimum air temperature was reflected in a 0.5-percentage unit increase in the probability of a male calf being born. The probability of a male calf being born increased by 2.9 percentage units with each additional millimeter of evaporation per day. Results indicate that climatic factors associated with elevated temperatures and greater evaporation may influence the SSR in dairy cattle. © American Dairy Science Association, 2006.


Publication title

Journal of Dairy Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


American Dairy Science Association

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Dairy cattle

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