Rumination time around dry-off relative to the development of diseases in early-lactation cows.


Abuelo A(1), Wisnieski L(2), Brown JL(3), Sordillo LM(3).
Author information:
(1)Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Center for Animal and Human Health in Appalachia, College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN 37752.
(3)Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824.


Monitoring rumination time (RT) around the time of calving is an effective way of identifying cows at risk of disease in early lactation. However, this only allows for the identification of cows a few days before the onset of clinical signs; thus, effective preventive measures cannot be implemented. Recent research has suggested that biomarkers of immune and metabolic function measured at dry-off (DO) can predict higher disease risk in early lactation. Nevertheless, the extent to which RT around DO is associated with early-lactation disease risk remains unexplored. Thus, the objective of this study was to compare RT in the weeks before and after DO between cows that did and did not experience health disorders in early lactation. For this, we conducted an observational retrospective cohort study utilizing the records available from a large commercial dairy herd in which RT is recorded daily using an automated system. Daily RT from -7 to +14 d relative to DO from 2,258 DO cycles and their respective health records in the first 60 d in milk were used. Differences in RT between animals with and without a disease history were tested with the Student t-test with Bonferroni adjustment. Mixed linear regression analyses were performed to assess differences in RT around DO and the association of RT with the occurrence of mastitis, metritis, retained placenta, hyperketonemia, lameness, hypocalcemia, pneumonia, and displaced abomasum. Rumination time decreased abruptly at DO and remained lower for 3 to 4 d compared with the days before DO. On average, cows affected by hyperketonemia and lameness ruminated 9.83 ± 6.40 and 15.00 ± 6.08 min/d less than unaffected cows, respectively. Cows that developed lameness in the first 60 d in milk showed reduced RT from 1 to 3 d following DO compared with cows that were not diagnosed with lameness in early lactation. However, RT around DO was not associated with the occurrence of the other health disorders studied here. Our results demonstrate that DO is a stressful event for dairy cows resulting in decreased RT for several days. Furthermore, the association between RT around DO and some early-lactation diseases suggests that RT could be a useful tool to identify at-risk cows early enough to allow for preventive interventions. Further studies should investigate the diagnostic utility of incorporating RT data early in the dry period in the disease prediction algorithms of rumination sensors.