In a prospective cohort study, the daily bodyweight (BW) and milk production of 92 cows were recorded using automatic milking systems. The objectives were to characterize calcium serum concentration variability on days 1-3 post-partum and to evaluate the association between subclinical hypocalcemia (SHPC) and change in BW over the first 30 days in milk (DIM) in Holstein dairy cows, while controlling for concurrent disease and negative energy balance (NEB). SHPC was defined as total serum calcium concentration between 6 and 8 mg/dL, NEB was defined as non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) > 0.7 mEq/L or β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) ≥ 1.2 mmol/L. The peak incidence of SHPC was at 1 DIM for all groups (11%, 42% and 60% for parities 1, 2, and ≥3, respectively). All parity groups lost weight (21, 33, and 34 kg) during the first 30 DIM. Parity 1 animals with disease compared with those without disease lost the most weight (2.6 kg/day BW loss vs. <1.9 kg/day, respectively). Normocalcemic parity 2 animals with either NEB or disease lost the most weight (>5 kg/day) compared with those in the SHPC group (≤4.5 kg/day). In parity ≥ 3 animals, SHPC was an important factor for BW loss; SHPC animals lost the most weight (>3.7 kg/day) vs. normocalcemic cows (≤3.3 kg/day) regardless of NEB or disease status. Even though all animals lost weight during early lactation the effect of disease, NEB, and SHPC on BW loss was different in each parity group.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica 2012 Student Bovine Research Assistantship program. The authors thank the Cornell University FAME students (Elizabeth Brock, Erin King, Kaitlyn Kremer, and Halley Oliveira) for the help with on-farm tasks, Shawna Johnson for the data entry, and the farm owners and staff for the use of their animals, facilities and equipment. Preliminary results were presented as an Abstract at the ADSA-ASAS Joint Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, 8–12 July 2013.
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- Automatic milking systems
- Dairy cows
- Subclinical hypocalcemia