Abstract. Milk yields and the circulating profile of T4, T3 and rT3 were assessed during three different seasons of the year, in first trimester lactating (L) and in dry (D) multiparous holstein cows acclimated to distinct weather conditions. Within the thermoneutral zone (18–28°C; 40–60% RH) and regardless of their geographical location, the thyroid hormone profile in all L-cows (n = 50) resembled the so-called euthyroid sick syndrome (T4, 43.7 ± 7.7 nmol/l; T3, 1.31 ± 0.10 nmol/l and rT3, 0.52 ± 0.08 nmol/l). In both groups of animals the T3/T4 molar ratio was similar within the entire range of climates encompassed in the study. However, both groups exhibited a significant shift in the T3/rt3 molar ratio during cold (10°C; 50%) or hot-dry (34°C; 40%) weather conditions. This shift reaches maximum values (L, 6.5 ± 1.2; D, 7.9 ± 1.0 nmoles/l) under hot-humid conditions (28–42°C; 60–90%). The relative increase of T3 levels from comfortable to cold or hot environmental temperatures, was significantly higher in L than D animals (30 vs 12%, respectively). Furthermore, only L-cows exhibited a significant decrease in the rT3/T4 molar ratio during either type of thermoregulatory demands, as well as a significant increase of T4 values under heat-acclimation. These results suggest that heat-acclimation in dairy cattle does not depress thyroid gland activity, and lend further support to the notion that adaptive thermoregulatory mechanisms in homeothermic vertebrates, involve adjustments in the peripheral monodeiodinative pathways of thyroid hormones.
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