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Effect of seasons and photoperiods on seminal attributes and sperm morphology in Holstein Friesian × Sahiwal crossbred dairy bulls

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Cattle being non-seasonal breeding species, effects of photoperiods on sperm traits and morphology had been reported inadequately in breeding bulls. To elucidate the plausible existence of effects of photoperiods and seasons, seminal traits of Holstein Friesian × Sahiwal crossbred dairy bulls (N = 557) were analysed using different statistical models. A present study revealed that the biological rhythm of reproduction oscillated almost in parallel to the annual changes of natural photoperiods even in non-seasonal breeding species like cattle bulls. Semen traits diminished to the lowest in winter solstice (WS ± 45 days), progressively increased with the rising day length of spring (vernal equinox ± 45 days), reached a peak in summer solstice (SS ± 45 days), and then gradually reduced with decreasing photoperiod of the autumn equinox (AE ± 45 days). From summer solstice to winter solstice, sperm concentration reduced by 90.53 million/ml (8.85%), total sperm count/ejaculate decreased by 785 million (13.87%), total motile sperm count/ejaculate reduced by 17.59%, and total post-thaw motile sperm counts/ejaculates diminished by 38.64%. In short-duration photoperiods (≤ 12 h), bulls had a significantly (P < 0.01) higher incidence of major, minor, tail abnormality and total aberrant sperm% compared to that of long-duration photoperiods (> 12 h). Solstice equinox–based seasonal classification provided better insight into photoperiodicity on bulls’ semen quality and sperm traits as compared to conventional meteorological classification of seasons. It was concluded that photoperiods affect sperm productivity, semen quality, and sperm morphology in non-seasonal breeding species like dairy bulls, maintained at transitional latitude (29° N) tropical climate. Bulls’ reproductive ability was more influenced by the phases of increasing/decreasing day length duly primed by climax/trough of photoperiods, compared to mere long/short duration of photoperiods.

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The authors are thankful to the Director, ICAR-Central Institute for Research on Cattle, Meerut (Formerly, Project Directorate on Cattle), for providing the necessary facilities for carrying out this research. Financial support provided by ICAR-AICRP (‘Frieswal Project’) is thankfully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Dilip Kumar Mandal.

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Semen collection is a routine process in bull stations. All handling of animals and management were carried out in accordance with standard practices routinely followed by the institution’s farm. No extra interventions were carried out in this study. For this reason, no additional ethical clearance was deemed necessary.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Mandal, D.K., Kumar, M. & Tyagi, S. Effect of seasons and photoperiods on seminal attributes and sperm morphology in Holstein Friesian × Sahiwal crossbred dairy bulls. Int J Biometeorol 66, 2223–2235 (2022).

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