Risk factors for subclinical hypocalcaemia, and associations between subclinical hypocalcaemia and reproductive performance, in pasturebased dairy herds in New Zealand

Risk factors for subclinical hypocalcaemia, and associations between subclinical hypocalcaemia and reproductive performance, in pasturebased dairy herds in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS: To estimate the herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia within 3 days of calving, to determine cow and herd-level risk factors for this condition, and associations with reproductive performance, in pasture-based cows in New Zealand.

METHODS: Between 10 and 15 clinically healthy cows ≥3-years-old (n=1,051) were enrolled from 76 spring-calving dairy herds. Blood samples were collected from all cows on 1 or 2 days within 3 days of calving, and assayed for total concentrations of Ca in serum. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was defined as concentrations of Ca in serum ≤2.14 mmol/L, and herd-level prevalence was the percentage of sampled cows with subclinical hypocalcaemia. Breeding and pregnancy diagnosis data were obtained for each cow to calculate reproductive outcomes. Herd-level data about management practices were collected from farmers at enrolment. Associations between cow-level variables, and reproductive outcomes, and subclinical hypocalcaemia were examined using multivariable logistic regression mixed models. Associations between herdlevel variables and prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia were examined using a multivariable linear regression model.

RESULTS: Mean herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia was 52 (95% CI=49–55)%. Risk of subclinical hypocalcaemia at the cow-level was associated with an interaction between age of cow and interval from calving to sampling (p=0.03). Increasing age of cow was associated with increased risk of subclinical hypocalcaemia, and cows sampled on the day of calving had an increased risk compared with cows sampled 1 or 2 days after calving. Increased herd-level prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia was associated with feeding grass silage (p=0.06) or maize silage (p=0.004), and feeding increasing amounts of elemental Mg in the form of magnesium oxide (p=0.02). The mean farmer-reported herdlevel prevalence of clinical hypocalcaemia was 2.9 (95% CI=2.1–3.8)%. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was not associated with any of the reproductive outcomes measured.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: There was a high prevalence of subclinical hypocalcaemia in the pasturefed, spring-calving dairy herds sampled and a large betweenherd variation in prevalence. Subclinical hypocalcaemia increased with increasing age, and declined with time postpartum. Herd-level prevalence was associated with feeding grass silage and maize silage to pre-calving cows and with increasing amounts of supplemented magnesium oxide. Subclinical hypocalcaemia was not associated with reproductive outcomes.


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