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Mechanisms and impacts of inflammatory diseases on reproduction in dairy cows

Key-take away messages

  • Extensive fat mobilisation after calving can induce inflammation and tissue damage in dairy cows
  • 30 to 35% of dairy cows suffer from inflammatory disease in the first 3 weeks after calving
  • Systemic inflammation of dairy cows results in a change in energy partition, leading to poor reproductive performance of dairy cattle

Inflammation in the period around calving reduces milk production of dairy cows and has long-term negative effects on reproduction

On March 22, Dr. José Santos, Research Foundation Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida gave a lecture entitled “Mechanisms and impacts of inflammatory diseases on reproduction in dairy cows”

Massive fat mobilisation and post partum diseases of dairy cows resuklt in systemic inflammation

During the presentation, Dr. Santos explained that calving followed by onset of lactation poses new challenges to dairy cows. This requires refined adaptation of the dairy cow metabolism to accommodate for the shifts in nutrient partition of dairy cows. Hepatic flux of blood, glucose and VFA changes dramatically[1]. The excessive negative nutrient balance of dairy cows during the first weeks after calving leads to an intense mobilization of fat tissues, generating lipid metabolites that are cytotoxic for dairy cows[2]. According to Dr. Santos, poor transition to lactation increases the risk of disease, with 30 to 35% of dairy cows being affected by disease in the first 3 weeks of lactation and 78% of the first disease diagnosis occurring within the first 3 weeks post-partum[3].

Systemic inflammation of dairy cows has a negative impact on dairy cow fertility

Post partum diseases of dairy cows induce inflammation and tissue damage. This alters partition of nutrients to favor control of infection and tissue repair. As a result, there is a shift in physiology. Priority shifts from milk production towards survival. Multiple studies in dairy cows have confirmed for example, that endometritis in dairy cows results in impaired follicle growth[4], reduced oocyte[5] and conceptus quality and poor development of the morula[6]. In conclusion, all these changes caused by inflammation do not only have a negative impact on milk production after calving, they also cause long-term negative effects on fertility and reproduction of dairy cows.

References on the impact of systemic inflamation of dairy cows on cow reproduction

  1. Reynolds, C. K, Aikman, P.C, Lupoli, B, Humphries, D.J, and D.E. Beever (2003), Splanchnic Metabolism of Dairy Cows During the Transition From Late Gestation Through Early Lactation. J. Dairy Sci, 86:1201-1217.
  2. Contreras, G.A, Thelen, K, Schmidt, S.E, Strieder Barboza, C, Presault, C.L, Raphael, W, Kiupel, M, Caron, J. and A. L. Lock (2026). Adipose tissue remodeling in late-lactation dairy cows during feed-restriction-induced negative energy balance, J. Dairy Sci, 99 (12):10009-10021.
  3. Ribeiro, E.S, Gome, G, Greco, L.F, Cerri, R.L.A, Vieira-Neto, A, Monteiro Jr, P.L.J, Lima, F.S, Bisinotto, R.S, Thatcher, W.W, and J.E.P. Santos (2016),. Carryover effect of postpartum inflammatory diseases on developmental biology and fertility in lactating dairy cows, . Dairy Sci, 99 (3):2201-2220.
  4. Bromfield. J, and I.M. Sheldon (2013). Lipopolysaccharide Reduces the Primordial Follicle Pool in the Bovine Ovarian Cortex Ex Vivo and in the Murine Ovary In Vivo. Biology of Reproduction, 88 (4): 98, 1-9.
  5. Bromfield. J, and I.M. Sheldon (2011). Lipopolysaccharide Initiates Inflammation in Bovine Granulosa Cells via the TLR4 Pathway and Perturbs Oocyte Meiotic Progression in Vitro. Endocrinology, 152 (12): Pages 5029–5040.
  6. Dickson, M.J, Piersanti, R.L, Ramirez-Hernandez, R, Barros de Oliveira, E, Bishop, J.V, Hansen, T.R, Ma, Z, Jeong, K.C.C, Santos, J.E.P, Sheldon, M.I, Block, J, and J.J. Bromfield (2020). Experimentally Induced Endometritis Impairs the Developmental Capacity of Bovine Oocytes. Biology of Reproduction, 103 (3): 508–520.

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Hydroxy trace minerals for dairy cattle

By using Selko IntelliBond which contains the hydroxy form of trace minerals, the use of sulphates can be avoided, which will result in an improvement of fibre digestion42,59,60 and gut health of dairy cows.

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