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Risk factors for subclinical hypocalcaemia, and associations between subclinical hypocalcaemia and reproductive performance, in pasturebased dairy herds in New Zealand

Authors: McDougall S, Roberts KI
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 12-19, Jan 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Abstract:

AIMS: To estimate the herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia within 3 days of calving, to determine cow and herd-level risk factors for this condition, and associations with reproductive performance, in pasture-based cows in New Zealand.

METHODS: Between 10 and 15 clinically healthy cows ≥3-years-old (n=1,051) were enrolled from 76 spring-calving dairy herds. Blood samples were collected from all cows on 1 or 2 days within 3 days of calving, and assayed for total concentrations of Ca in serum. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was defined as concentrations of Ca in serum ≤2.14 mmol/L, and herd-level prevalence was the percentage of sampled cows with subclinical hypocalcaemia. Breeding and pregnancy diagnosis data were obtained for each cow to calculate reproductive outcomes. Herd-level data about management practices were collected from farmers at enrolment. Associations between cow-level variables, and reproductive outcomes, and subclinical hypocalcaemia were examined using multivariable logistic regression mixed models. Associations between herdlevel variables and prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia were examined using a multivariable linear regression model.

RESULTS: Mean herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia was 52 (95% CI=49–55)%. Risk of subclinical hypocalcaemia at the cow-level was associated with an interaction between age of cow and interval from calving to sampling (p=0.03). Increasing age of cow was associated with increased risk of subclinical hypocalcaemia, and cows sampled on the day of calving had an increased risk compared with cows sampled 1 or 2 days after calving. Increased herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia was associated with feeding grass silage (p=0.06) or maize silage (p=0.004), and feeding increasing amounts of elemental Mg in the form of magnesium oxide (p=0.02). The mean farmer-reported herdlevel prevalence of clinical hypocalcaemia was 2.9 (95% CI=2.1–3.8)%. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was not associated with any of the reproductive outcomes measured.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: There was a high prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia in the pasturefed, spring-calving dairy herds sampled and a large betweenherd variation in prevalence. Subclinical hypocalcaemia increased with increasing age, and declined with time postpartum. Herd-level prevalence was associated with feeding grass silage and maize silage to pre-calving cows and with increasing amounts of supplemented magnesium oxide. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was not associated with reproductive outcomes.


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