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Characterisation of physiological and immunological responses in beef cows to abrupt weaning and subsequent housing

Lynch, Eilish M. and Earley, Bernadette and McGee, Mark and Doyle, Sean (2010) Characterisation of physiological and immunological responses in beef cows to abrupt weaning and subsequent housing. BMC Veterinary Research, 6 (37). pp. 1-8. ISSN 1746-6148

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Abstract

Background: Weaning involves the permanent separation of the calf from the dam and has been shown to be stressful for both. The objectives of this study were to characterise the effect of i) abrupt weaning and ii) subsequent housing on the extended physiological and immunological responses of beef cows. At weaning (day (d) 0, mean age of calf (s.d.) 212 (24.5) d), cows were abruptly separated from their calves and returned to the grazing area. After 35 d at pasture, cows were housed in a slatted floor shed and offered grass silage ad libitum plus a mineral-vitamin supplement daily. Rectal body temperature was recorded and blood samples were obtained on i) d 0 (weaning), 2, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 and subsequently on ii) d 0 (housing), 2, 7, 14 and 21 for physiological, haematological and immunological measurements. Results: Post-weaning, concentration of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone were unchanged (P > 0.05). Rectal body temperature, neutrophil number and neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio increased (P < 0.01) on d 2 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Lymphocyte and neutrophil number decreased (P < 0.05) on d 2 to 7 and d 7 to 21, respectively, compared with pre-weaning baseline. Interferon-g production decreased (P < 0.05) on d 2 compared with pre-weaning baseline. An increase (P < 0.05) in acute phase proteins, fibrinogen and haptoglobin was evident on d 2 to 35 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Concentration of glucose increased on d 2 to 28, whereas nonesterified fatty acid decreased on d 2 to 35 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Post-housing, concentrations of cortisol, rectal body temperature, total leukocyte number, and glucose were unchanged (P > 0.05). On d 2 posthousing, neutrophil number and neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio increased (P < 0.05), whereas lymphocyte number and concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone, fibrinogen and non-esterified fatty acid decreased (P < 0.05) compared with pre-housing baseline. Concentration of haptoglobin increased (P < 0.05) on d 14 to 21 posthousing. Conclusions: A transitory increase in neutrophil number and decrease in lymphocyte number, increased neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio coupled with decreased interferon-g production, and increased concentration of acute phase proteins indicate a stress response in cows post-weaning, whereas post-housing, changes were less marked.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The authors acknowledge E. Mulligan for skilled technical assistance, the farm staff at Teagasc, Grange Beef Research Centre for the care and management of the animals, the staff of Grange laboratories for feed analysis and J. Larkin and M. Murray (Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Grange) for blood sample analysis. Thanks are also extended to W. Byrne, H. Cameron and M. Hill at the CVRL, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Laboratory Complex, Co. Kildare, Ireland for their assistance in blood sample analysis. This work was funded by a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship and a John Hume Scholarship to E.M. Lynch.
Keywords: physiological responses; immunological responses; beef cows; weaning; housing;
Subjects: Science & Engineering > Biology
Item ID: 2425
Identification Number: 10.1186/1746-6148-6-37
Depositing User: Dr. Sean Doyle
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2011 15:37
Journal or Publication Title: BMC Veterinary Research
Publisher: BioMed Central
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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