The objective was to identify herd-level indicators expressed as a proportion of sampled animals with increased nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) or β-hydroxybutyric acid (BHBA), or decreased calcium in wk -1 and wk +1 relative to calving that were associated with herd-level incidence of retained placenta, metritis and displaced abomasum, milk production, and probability of pregnancy at the first artificial insemination (AI). Fifty-five Holstein freestall dairy herds in the United States and Canada were visited weekly. Blood was collected from 2,365 cows around parturition, and serum concentrations of NEFA, BHBA, and calcium were determined. Different cow-level metabolite thresholds associated with detrimental health or productivity in previous studies were used to classify animals into high- and low-risk metabolite concentration groups. For wk -1 and wk +1 relative to calving, a herd-level threshold was determined as the proportion of sampled animals in the high-risk metabolite concentration groups with the strongest association with increased incidence of disease, milk loss, or decreased pregnancy at the first AI. The odds of displaced abomasum after calving were higher in herds that had ≥25% of the animals with BHBA ≥1,400 μmol/L in wk +1 [odds ratio (OR) = 2.1; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.0-4.2)] or ≥35% of the animals with calcium ≤2.1. mmol/L in wk +1 (OR = 2.4; CI = 1.3-4.3). Herd-level thresholds of ≥15% of the cows with BHBA ≥800 μmol/L in wk -1 and ≥15% of the cows with calcium ≤2.1. mmol/L in wk +1 were associated with milk loss (±SE) of 4.4 ± 1.7 and 3.8 ± 1.4. kg/d per cow, respectively. When only multiparous cows were considered, herds with ≥30% of the multiparous cows with NEFA ≥0.5. mEq/L in wk -1 were associated with a 3.0 ± 1.5. kg/d per cow milk loss. The odds of pregnancy at first AI were lower in herds that had ≥5% of the cows with calcium ≤2.1. mmol/L in wk -1 (OR = 0.7; CI = 0.5-1.0), or ≥30% of the cows with NEFA ≥1.0. mEq/L (OR = 0.6; CI = 0.4-0.9) or ≥25% of the cows with calcium ≤2.1. mmol/L in wk +1 (OR = 0.7; CI = 0.5-0.9). When only multiparous cows were considered, the odds of pregnancy at first AI were lower in herds that had ≥50% of multiparous cows with NEFA ≥0.5. mEq/L in wk -1 (OR = 0.5; CI = 0.2-0.9). In conclusion, several herd-level thresholds for the proportion of cows with increased NEFA or BHBA, or decreased calcium in the week before and after calving were associated with higher risk of displaced abomasum, milk loss at the first Dairy Herd Improvement Association test, and decreased pregnancy at first AI. The association found between precalving BHBA and milk production is promising due to the availability of several cow-side tests for measuring BHBA. Some of the herd-level associations differed from the previously described cow-level associations, suggesting the potential of interpreting periparturient metabolic challenges at the herd level, where changes in diet and management are generally implemented.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors are grateful to William Sears (Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada) for statistical advice and to Pfizer Animal Health (New York, NY) for providing financial support. The authors also acknowledge the farmers, veterinarians, and technical staff for their participation in the project. N. Chapinal was supported by a Beatriu de Pinós postodoctoral grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain).
Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Negative energy balance
- Nonesterified fatty acid
- β-hydroxybutyric acid