Effect of a one-off sporidesmin challenge on the milk production of dairy cows

Effect of a one-off sporidesmin challenge on the milk production of dairy cows
Peer reviewed



To investigate the effects on milk yield in lactating dairy cows of a single dose of sporidesmin, and to categorise the responses based on clinical signs and differing degrees of liver damage, as assessed by activities of γ-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and post-mortem liver histopathology.


Adult lactating dairy cows (n=17) were given a single intra-ruminal dose of 0.24 mg/kg of sporidesmin dissolved in ethanol and diluted in water on Day 0; an additional three cows served as untreated controls. Weekly serum samples were collected between Days −14 and 42 and analysed for activities of GGT. Milk yields were measured daily over the same period. Cows were subjected to euthanasia due to severe clinical signs (n=2) or were slaughtered at the end of the trial. Samples of livers were examined histologically and were scored for lesions on a scale from 0 (normal) to 3 (severe). Based on GGT activities and clinical observations, cows that were treated with sporidesmin were categorised as non-responders (no clinical signs and normal GGT), subclinical (elevated GGT and no clinical signs) or clinical. Outcomes were compared between these three groups and control cows using generalised additive models.


Seven cows were classified as clinical, and had median liver scores of 22 (95% CI=20.6–23.4), six were subclinical with median liver scores of 8.7 (95% CI=3.8–13.5) and four were non-responders with median liver scores of 2.5 (95% CI=1.2–4.3). Median liver scores for the three control cows were 1 (95% CI=−0.8–2.1). Activities of GGT increased in subclinical and clinical cows around Day 7. The milk yield of all cows treated with sporidesmin, including non-responder cows, started to decrease on Day 1, and reached a nadir (a drop of between 9 and 85%) on Day 7.


It is likely that the overall effects of sporidesmin consumption on milk production by the national herd in New Zealand are hugely underestimated, especially considering its effects on non-responder and subclinical cows as shown in this trial. In view of the results presented here, the authors are suggesting a change to the definition of response to sporidesmin from non-responder, subclinical, and clinical, to subclinical-low, subclinical-high, and clinical, when measuring a combination of GGT activities, clinical signs and milk yields during facial eczema-risk seasons (summer–autumn).

Access to the full text of this article is available:

through another providers website:

If you're a member or subscriber and believe you should have access:



Register for an account

Request new password

The whole of the literary matter of the New Zealand Veterinary Journal is copyright Taylor and Francis, Downloading this article signifies agreement with the terms and conditions of electronic access.