The association of serum metabolites with clinical disease during the transition period

N. Chapinal, M. Carson, T. F. Duffield, M. Capel, S. Godden, M. Overton, J. E.P. Santos, S. J. LeBlanc

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193 Scopus citations


The objective of this observational field study was to validate the relationship of serum concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA), and calcium with disease in early lactation across different management systems. Fifty-five Holstein freestall dairy herds located across the United States and Canada were selected and visited weekly for blood sample collection from 2,365 cows. Only diseases that were consistently recorded across herds and blood samples collected before the disease occurred were considered. Metabolite concentrations in serum in wk -1 relative to calving were considered as predictors of retained placenta (RP) and metritis, and metabolite concentrations in serum in wk -1 and wk +1 relative to calving were considered as predictors of displaced abomasum (DA). For each disease, each metabolite, and week of sampling in the case of DA, a critical threshold was calculated based on the highest combined sensitivity and specificity and used to categorize the serum concentrations into high and low risk categories. Multivariable logistic regression models were built for each disease of interest and week of sampling, considering cow as the experimental unit and herd as a random effect. Cows with precalving serum NEFA concentrations ≥0.3. mEq/L were more likely to develop RP [odds ratio (OR) = 1.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.3 to 2.6] and metritis (OR = 1.8; 95% CI = 1.5 to 2.9) after calving than cows with lower NEFA concentrations. Precalving NEFA ≥0.5. mEq/L (OR = 2.4; 95% CI = 1.5 to 3.7), postcalving NEFA ≥1.0. mEq/L (OR = 2.7; 95% CI = 1.7 to 4.4), and postcalving calcium ≤2.2. mmol/L (OR = 3.1; 95% CI = 1.9 to 5.0) were associated with subsequent risk of DA. In conclusion, elevated serum NEFA concentrations within 1 wk before calving were associated with increased risk of RP, metritis, and DA after calving. Serum NEFA and calcium concentrations in the 2 wk around calving in combination were associated with the risk of DA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4897-4903
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Pfizer Animal Health (New York, NY) for providing financial support for this project. The authors acknowledge the farmers, veterinarians, and technical staff for their participation in the project. Núria Chapinal was supported by a Beatriu de Pinós postodoctoral grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya.


  • Displaced abomasum
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Nonesterified fatty acid
  • β-hydroxybutyrate

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