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Associations between body condition, rumen fill, diarrhoea and lameness and ruminal acidosis in Australian dairy herds

Bramley, E., Costa, N.D., Fulkerson, W.J. and Lean, I.J. (2013) Associations between body condition, rumen fill, diarrhoea and lameness and ruminal acidosis in Australian dairy herds. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 61 (6). pp. 323-329.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00480169.2013.806882
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Abstract

AIMS: To investigate associations between ruminal acidosis and body condition score (BCS), prevalence of poor rumen fill, diarrhoea and lameness in dairy cows in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study conducted in 100 dairy herds in five regions of Australia. Feeding practices, diets and management practices of herds were assessed. Lactating cows within herds were sampled for rumen biochemistry (n = 8 per herd) and scored for body condition, rumen fill and locomotion (n = 15 per herd). The consistency of faecal pats (n = 20 per herd) from the lactating herd was also scored. A perineal faecal staining score was given to each herd. Herds were classified as subclinically acidotic (ACID), suboptimal (SO) and non-acidotic (Normal) when ≥3/8 cows per herd were allocated to previously defined categories based on rumen biochemical measures. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to examine associations between the prevalence of conditions within a herd and explanatory variables.

RESULTS: Median BCS and perineal staining score were not associated with herd category (p >0.05). In the multivariate models, herds with a high prevalence of low rumen fill scores (≤2/5) were more likely to be categorised Normal than SO with an associated increased risk of 69% (p = 0.05). Herds that had a greater prevalence of lame cows (locomotion scores ≥3/5), had 103% higher risk of being categorised as ACID than SO (p = 0.034). In a multivariate logistic regression model, with herd modelled as a random effect, an increase of 1% of pasture in the diet was associated with a 5.5% increase in risk of high faecal scores (≥4/5) indicating diarrhoea (p = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This study confirmed that herd categories based on rumen function are associated with biological outcomes consistent with acidosis. Herds that had a higher risk of lameness also had a much higher risk of being categorised ACID than SO. Herds with a high prevalence of low rumen scores were more likely to be categorised Normal than SO. The findings indicate that differences in rumen metabolism identified for herd categories ACID, SO and Normal were associated with differences in disease risk and physiology. The study also identified an association between pasture feeding and higher faecal scores. This study suggests that there is a challenge for farmers seeking to increase milk production of cows on pasture to maintain the health of cattle.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: New Zealand Veterinary Association
Copyright: 2013 New Zealand Veterinary Association
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/19246
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