The main objective of this experiment was to evaluate the use of rumination time (RT) during the peripartum period as a tool for early disease detection. The study was carried out in an experimental freestall barn and involved 23 Italian Friesian cows (9 primiparous and 14 multiparous).

The RT was continuously recorded by using an automatic system (Hr-Tag, SCR Engineers Ltd., Netanya, Israel), and data were summarized in 2-h intervals. Blood samples were collected from 30d before calving to 42d in milk (DIM) to assess biochemical indicators related to energy, protein, and mineral metabolism, as well as markers of inflammation and some enzyme activities. The liver functionality index, which includes some negative acute-phase proteins and related parameters (albumin, cholesterol, and bilirubin), was used to evaluate the severity of inflammatory conditions occurring around calving.

The cows were retrospectively categorized according to RT observed between 3 and 6 DIM into those with the lowest (L) and highest (H) RT. The average RT before calving (−20 to −2d) was 479min/d (range 264 to 599), reached a minimum value at calving (30% of RT before calving), and was nearly stable after 15 DIM (on average 452min/d). Milk yield in early lactation (on average 26.8kg/d) was positively correlated with RT (r=0.33).

After calving, compared with H cows, the L cows had higher values of haptoglobin (0.61 and 0.34g/L at 10 DIM in L and H, respectively) for a longer time, had a greater increase in total bilirubin (9.5 and 5.7μmol/L at 5 DIM in L and H), had greater reductions of albumin (31.2 and 33.5g/L at 10 DIM in L and H) and paraoxonase (54 and 76U/ml at 10 DIM in L and H), and had a slower increase of total cholesterol (2.7 and 3.2mmol/L at 20 DIM in L and H). Furthermore, a lower average value of liver functionality index was observed in L (−6.97) compared with H (−1.91) cows. 

These results suggest that severe inflammation around parturition is associated with a slower increase of RT after calving. Furthermore, more than 90% of the cows in the L group had clinical diseases in early lactation compared with 42% of the H cows. Overall, our results demonstrate the utility of monitoring RT around calving, and in particular during the first week of lactation, as a way to identify in a timely fashion those cows at a greater risk of developing a disease in early lactation.

Source: Journal of Dairy Science