Postpartum disease and disorders in dairy cows may be associated with measurable changes in periparturient physical activity and metabolic profiles

Research in the Journal of Dairy Science® examines transition dairy cow health associated with first postpartum ovulation risk, metabolic status, milk production, rumination, and physical activity

Champaign, IL, September 16, 2020 – Postpartum disease and disorders may pose a threat to dairy cows, negatively affecting culling, lactation, and reproductive performance. Approximately one-third of dairy cows have at least one clinical disease (e.g., metritis, mastitis, digestive issues, respiratory problems) during the first three weeks of lactation. Transition from pregnancy to lactation poses the greatest risk for culling or even death in dairy cows. In an article appearing in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists from Kansas State University made it their objective to characterize associations between periparturient disease and multiple physiological indicators of cow status in transition dairy cows.

The authors assessed ovarian activity, metabolic and production traits, and activity-recorded physical traits of 160 postpartum diseased and healthy dairy cows. Cows were fit with activity monitor ear tags during mid-gestation to monitor ear skin temperature, eating, rumination, and activity. Routine daily monitoring of close-up dry cows and late-gestation heifers took place in addition to documentation of any health disorders. Other factors, such as body condition, rectal temperature, and blood metabolites, were monitored as well.

Cows with disease status had greater concentrations of free fatty acids, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and haptoglobin; greater rectal temperature; and less calcium compared with healthy cows on postpartum days 0, 3, 7, and 14.

“We found that prebreeding body condition score and body weight were greater in healthy cows. Disease also delayed postpartum ovulation, such that the odds for having delayed ovulation were 1.92 times greater in diseased cows than in healthy cows,” said lead author Jeffrey S. Stevenson, PhD, Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA.

Healthy cows were observed to be more active compared with diseased cows and had greater postpartum rumination times. Acute changes in all activities were associated with calving and could serve as predictors of impending parturition based on abrupt decreases in rumination and acute increases in total activity.

The study concludes that disease negatively affects postpartum metabolic profiles and first ovulation and is associated with measurable changes in physical activity.

Notes for editors
The article is “Transition dairy cow health is associated with first postpartum ovulation risk, metabolic status, milk production, rumination, and physical activity,” by Jeffrey S. Stevenson, Sevastian Banuelos, and Luís G. D. Mendonça. ( It appears in advance of the Journal of Dairy Science, volume 103, issue 10 (October 2020), published by FASS Inc. and Elsevier. It is available at

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Ken Olson at +1 630 237 4961 or to obtain copies. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact the corresponding author, Jeffrey S. Stevenson, Kansas State University, at

About the Journal of Dairy Science
The Journal of Dairy Science® (JDS), an official journal of the American Dairy Science Association®, is sco-published by Elsevier and FASS Inc. for the American Dairy Science Association. It is the leading general dairy research journal in the world. JDS readers represent education, industry, and government agencies in more than 70 countries, with interests in biochemistry, breeding, economics, engineering, environment, food science, genetics, microbiology, nutrition, pathology, physiology, processing, public health, quality assurance, and sanitation. JDS has a 2019 Journal Impact Factor of 3.333 and 5-year Journal Impact Factor of 3.432 according to Journal Citation Reports (Source: Clarivate 2020).

About the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA)
The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world's population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy industry.

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Since 1998, FASS has provided shared management services to not-for-profit scientific organizations. With combined membership rosters of more than 10,000 professionals in animal agriculture and other sciences, FASS offers clients services in accounting, membership management, convention and meeting planning, information technology, and scientific publication support. The FASS publications department provides journal management, peer-review support, copyediting, and composition for this journal; the staff includes five BELS-certified ( technical editors and experienced composition staff.