Association between subclinical hypocalcemia in the first 3 days of lactation and reproductive performance of dairy cows

L. S. Caixeta, P. A. Ospina, M. B. Capel, D. V. Nydam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the effects of subclinical hypocalcemia on reproductive performance in dairy cows. In a prospective cohort study, 97 cows on 2 dairy farms with automatic milking systems were monitored for subclinical hypocalcemia. Animals were enrolled 7 ± 3 days prior to estimated calving date and three parity groups were defined based on the lactation that the animals were going to start: lactation = 1, lactation = 2, and lactation ≥3. Serum calcium concentration (Ca) was measured in all animals in the first 3 DIM and subclinical hypocalcemia (SCH) was defined as Ca ≤ 8.6 mg/dL; animals that presented a low Ca level during all 3 days were classified as chronic SCH (cSCH). Return to cyclicity during the voluntary waiting period was analyzed based on weekly progesterone concentrations measured in serum. Information on reproductive outcomes (i.e., number of breedings, pregnancy status, days open, etc.), were collected from on-farm software after all study cows had completed their study period. Chronic SCH was present in all parity groups with higher incidence in multiparous animals (20% of parity = 1, 32% of parity = 2; and 46% of parity ≥ 3 animals). The cSCH animals took longer to show active ovaries when compared to eucalcemic and SCH animals. In a multivariable Cox's Proportional Hazard model animals with normal Ca were 1.8 times more likely to return to cyclicity by the end of the voluntary waiting period when compared to cSCH animals. Animals with cSCH also had 0.27 odds of being pregnant at first service compared to eucalcemic cows when analyzed by multivariable logistic regression. Subclinical hypocalcemia had a negative effect on return of ovarian function during the voluntary waiting period and decreased the odds of pregnancy at first service. Those cows with cSCH had an even more pronounced impaired reproductive function than those with one subclinical measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Ovulation
  • Pregnancy at first service
  • Subclinical hypocalcemia


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