The effects of dexamethasone administration on physiological, behavioral, and production parameters in dairy cows after a difficult calving


Dairy cows are predisposed to diseases during the postpartum period. Dystocia has been associated with increased risk for disease, which is likely the result of increased tissue trauma and stress during the prolonged parturition. To attenuate the inflammatory response seen in dystocic animals and improve well-being, we assessed the effects of a glucocorticoid, dexamethasone administered within 12 h after calving. Dystocia was defined as a difficult birth resulting in a prolonged calv-ing (>= 70 min after the amniotic sac appears) and was monitored through 3 video cameras in the close-up dry-cow pen. Cows meeting the dystocia definition were randomly assigned to receive a single intramuscular injection of either dexamethasone (DEX; 0.1 mg/kg of body weight; n = 43) or saline (CON, n = 44) within 12 h following a dystocic calving. Serum haptoglobin, blood beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) concentrations, body temperature, and several behaviors were measured for the first 7 d postpartum. Additionally, milk production and components for the first 120 d were recorded. Using a mixed model, the fixed effects of treatment, parity, calving assistance, and time, along with 2-and 3-way interactions, were analyzed with cow as a random effect. We observed that primiparous DEX cows had greater serum haptoglobin concentrations on d 3 and d 7 post-partum compared with primiparous CON cows. There was no difference between treatment groups for blood BHB concentrations and body temperature. Behavior was altered between treatments, with DEX cows having reduced activity for the first week postpartum, as well as less restlessness and increased lying times on some of the days following calving. Treatment interacted with time for milk yield, such that DEX cows produced 2.7 kg/d less milk than CON cows for the first month fol-lowing calving. The administration of dexamethasone resulted in changes in behavioral measurements, which could suggest a reduction in discomfort; however, due to the reduction in milk yield for the first month follow-ing calving, DEX administration may not be applicable for typical farm use. Additional research is needed to investigate treatments for cows experiencing dystocia without detrimental effects on milk yield.

dystocia, anti-inflammatory, well-being, haptoglobin