top of page
  • ZISK

Transition dairy cow health associated with activity levels

September 17, 2020

Postpartum disease and disorders may pose a threat to dairy cows, negatively affecting culling, lactation and reproductive performance, according to an announcement from the American Dairy Science Assn. (ADSA).

Approximately one-third of dairy cows have at least one clinical disease (e.g., metritis, mastitis, digestive issues or respiratory problems) during the first three weeks of lactation. The transition from pregnancy to lactation poses the greatest risk for culling or even death in dairy cows, ADSA said.

In an article appearing in ADSA's Journal of Dairy Science, Kansas State University researchers characterized associations between periparturient disease and multiple physiological indicators of cow status in transition dairy cows.

The researchers assessed the ovarian activity, metabolic and production traits and activity-recorded physical traits of 160 postpartum diseased and healthy dairy cows. Cows were fit with activity monitor ear tags during mid-gestation to monitor ear skin temperature, eating, rumination and activity. Close-up dry cows and late-gestation heifers were routinely monitored daily, and any health disorders were documented. Other factors — such as body condition, rectal temperature and blood metabolites — were also monitored.

Cows with disease status had greater concentrations of free fatty acids, beta-hydroxybutyrate and haptoglobin, a higher rectal temperature and less calcium compared with healthy cows on postpartum days 0, 3, 7 and 14.


“We found that pre-breeding body condition score and bodyweight were greater in healthy cows. Disease also delayed postpartum ovulation such that the odds for having delayed ovulation were 1.92 times greater in diseased cows than in healthy cows,” said lead author Dr. Jeffrey S. Stevenson with the Kansas State department of animal sciences and industry.

Healthy cows were observed to be more active than diseased cows and had greater postpartum rumination times. Acute changes in all activities were associated with calving and could serve as predictors of impending parturition based on abrupt decreases in rumination and acute increases in total activity.

The researchers concluded that disease negatively affects postpartum metabolic profiles and first ovulation and is associated with measurable changes in physical activity.

In addition to Stevenson, Sevastian Banuelos and Luís G.D. Mendonça authored the article, “Transition Dairy Cow Health Is Associated with First Postpartum Ovulation Risk, Metabolic Status, Milk Production, Rumination & Physical Activity.”



bottom of page