Rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature as possible predictors of dystocia in dairy cows
ABSTRACT The objectives of this study were to explore changes of rumination time and reticuloruminal pH and temperature of dairy cows and heifers (means ± standard deviation; age = 5.8 ± 1.9; parity = 2.7 ± 1.4; body condition score = 3.2 ± 0.2) with eutocic (EUT, n = 10) and dystocic calving (DYS, n = 8). The recording period lasted from 3 d before calving until 7 d in milk. For the comparison of rumination time and reticuloruminal characteristics between groups, time to return to baseline (the time interval required to return to baseline from the delivery of the calf) and area under the curve (AUC; both for prepartum and postpartum periods) were calculated for each parameter. Rumination time decreased from baseline 28 h before calving both for EUT and DYS cows; after 20 h before calving, it decreased to 32.4 ± 2.3 and 13.2 ± 2.0 min/4 h between 8 and 4 h before delivery in EUT and DYS cows, respectively, and then it decreased below 10 and 5 min during the last 4 h before calving. Until 12 h after delivery, rumination time reached 42.6 ± 2.7 and 51.0 ± 3.1 min/4 h in DYS and EUT dams, respectively; however, AUC and time to return to baseline suggested lower rumination activity in DYS cows than in EUT dams for the 168-h postpartum observational period. Reticuloruminal pH decreased from baseline 56 h before calving both for EUT and DYS cows, but did not differ between groups before delivery. Reticuloruminal pH showed a decreasing tendency and clear diurnal variation after calving for both EUT and DYS cows, with slightly higher AUC values in DYS cows. In DYS cows, reticuloruminal temperature decreased from baseline 32 h before calving by 0.23 ± 0.02°C, whereas in EUT cows such a decrease was found only 20 h before delivery (0.48 ± 0.05°C). The AUC of reticuloruminal temperature calculated for the prepartum period was greater in EUT cows than in DYS cows. During the first 4 h after calving, reticuloruminal temperature decreased from 39.68 ± 0.09 to 38.96 ± 0.10°C and from 39.80 ± 0.06 to 38.81 ± 0.08°C in EUT and DYS cows, respectively, and reached baseline levels after 35.4 ± 3.4 and 37.8 ± 4.2 h after calving in EUT and DYS cows, respectively. Based on our results, continuous monitoring of changes in rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature seems to be promising in the early detection of cows with a higher risk of dystocia. Depressed rumination activity of DYS cows after calving highlights the importance of the postpartum monitoring of cows experiencing difficulties at calving. The effect of dystocia on postpartum reticuloruminal pH was not pronounced.
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