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Prevention of metabolic and infectious disorders of the peripartum in dairy farming: key factors and means of control during the dry period

Strategic issues

Mastitis and reproductive disorders are the most frequent diseases in dairy farming in France. Immune and metabolic disorders occurring in the peripartum and favouring the occurrence of these disorders have their origin for many in the management of the dry period.

These diseases are also among the most frequent users of antibiotics (mastitis, metritis and endometritis). The current objective of reducing the use of antibiotics is pushing to find alternative ways of controlling infectious diseases, particularly in terms of prevention. The dry season is a key period for preventing these disorders, particularly through nutritional prevention strategies.

Scientific Context

Mastitis, metritis and endometritis are among the most common infectious diseases in dairy farming, and their incidence is highest in the postpartum period (Fourichon et al., 2001). Authors have highlighted the indirect link between subclinical metabolic disorders that occur around calving and certain infectious diseases in the postpartum period. Initially by highlighting the depressive effect of subclinical hypocalcaemia, subacetonaemia or simply excessive lipomobilisation on certain immune functions (Suriyasathaporn et al., 2000, Matrinez et al., 2013). Secondly by proving the link between these metabolic disorders and the incidence of certain infectious diseases, including mastitis, metritis and endometritis (Raboisson et al., 2014, Martinez et al., 2012, Chapinal et al., 2012, Ribeiro at al., 2013, Tsiamadis et al., 2016). However, these studies raise several questions:

  • Some elements are not or poorly considered in the analysis of the link between metabolic disorders and infectious diseases, including interactions or links between energy and mineral metabolism (DeGaris et al., 2010; Chapinal et al., 2012; Lean et al., 2014). Also, the influence of hypophosphatemia, whose depressant effect on immune functions is now proven (Eisenberg et al., 2014), has been taken into account in only one study (Tsiamadis et al., 2016).
  • Diagnostic and monitoring methods have been developed to control subacetonemia disorders (Leblanc, 2010), but diagnostic methods to identify farms at risk of hypocalcemia, taking into account other metabolic energy or mineral disorders, have yet to be defined.
  • Prevention plans based primarily on the management of BACA and energy intake and the administration of monensin over a short pre-calving period have been tested and implemented in North American systems (Goff, 2014; Oetzel, 2015; Neves et al., 2016). However, these plans are difficult to adapt to French systems for several reasons:
  • There is an important diversity of feeding practices during the dry period in the French and more generally northern European systems: building or grazing management, nature and quality of the fodder used, mineral complementation. This diversity leads to significant variability in mineral and energy intake. Moreover, obtaining a ration with negative BACA is often impossible in our systems (Aubineau, 2014, unpublished data).
  • The herd size is often much smaller, making it difficult to easily build up a calving preparation batch.
  • The mineral composition of forages varies according to geobiological and meteorological conditions, parameters that vary greatly throughout France.
  • The variability in production levels associated with the diversity of breeds and levels of intensification in French systems calls for the study of different prevention schemes.

Objectives of the project

The MetaPrév project aims to prevent the occurrence of postpartum infectious diseases by better control of food handling during the dry period. More specifically, the project could include 3 main objectives:

  • O1: Describe the diversity of feeding practices during the dry period, the motivations and obstacles to the application of usual recommendations.
  • O2: Evaluate the effect of feeding during the dry period on the incidence of metabolic disorders at calving: hypocalcaemia, hypophosphatemia, excessive lipolysis and acetonaemia.
  • O3: To create diagnostic tools for metabolic disorders that can be easily used in the field.

Methodological approach envisaged

V1: Component 1 of the project focuses on identifying the diversity of food practices during the dry period. A descriptive survey on feeding practices during the dry period in the different dairy farming systems in the plains of western France will aim to understand the diversity of feeding practices during the dry period, and to understand the constraints and motivations of farmers in implementing these practices.

V2: Component 2 consists of a longitudinal follow-up carried out in part of the farms surveyed in component 1, grouped according to feeding practices. This monitoring will consist of evaluating the link between feeding practices, the composition of feed used, the ration distributed, certain individual parameters (breed, production level, body condition, etc.) and the incidence of sub-clinical metabolic disorders at calving by measuring blood calcium, blood phosphate and the blood level of non-esterified fatty acids.

V3: Component 3 aims to develop tools to detect farms at risk of metabolic disorders. It is conducted in two stages and will be based on the longitudinal monitoring of part 1 for data collection:

  • A comparison of blood and milk measurements of calcium content on the day of calving allows evaluation of the milk matrix as a diagnostic tool for subclinical hypocalcaemia.
  • The determination of a sampling plan is carried out in order to target the animals, their numbers and the metabolites to be tested.

The project described in this sheet seems to us essential for the O1 and O2 objectives. It will also provide us with the information we need to develop tools for identifying farms at risk of metabolic disorders based on blood or milk samples taken a few hours after calving (objective O3). Finally, it will provide a good basis for developing preventive strategies adapted to the different farming systems, which can be tested later, within the framework of other projects, on experimental farms or through survey systems in the form of intervention studies.


The project is funded by 6 partners : VILOFOSS, CCPA, NEOLAIT, TECHNA, GDS Bretagne, INRAE.

MétaPrév Project Scientific Team

Anne Boudon, Luc Delaby (UMR PEGASE)
Raphaël Guatteo et Nathalie Bareille (UMR BIOEPAR)
Laurent Alves de Oliveira (UMR 1213 Herbivores)
Thomas Aubineau (GDS Bretagne)


  • Chapinal, N.; Leblanc, S. J.; Carson, M. E.; Leslie, K. E.; Godden, S.; Capel, M.; Santos, J. E. P.; Overton, M. W.; Duffield TF. Herd-level association of serum metabolites in the transition period with disease, milk production, and early lactation reproductive performance. J Dairy Sci. 2012;95:5676-5682. doi:10.3168/jds.2011-5132.
  • DeGaris PJ, Lean IJ, Rabiee AR, Stevenson MA. Effects of increasing days of exposure to prepartum diets on the concentration of certain blood metabolites in dairy cows. Aust Vet J. 2010;88(4):137-145. doi:10.1111/j.1751-0813.2009.00530.x.
  • Eisenberg SWF, Ravesloot L, Koets AP, Grünberg W. Influence of feeding a low-phosphorus diet on leucocyte function in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2014;97(8):5176-5184. doi:10.3168/jds.2014-8180.
  • Fourichon C, Beaudeau F, Bareille N, Seegers H. Incidence of health disorders in dairy farming systems in western France. Livest Prod Sci. 2001;68(2-3):157-170. doi:10.1016/S0301-6226(00)00249-9.
  • Goff JP, Liesegang A, Horst RL. Diet-induced pseudohypoparathyroidism: A hypocalcemia and milk fever risk factor. J Dairy Sci. 2014;97(3):1520-1528. doi:10.3168/jds.2013-7467.
  • Lean IJ, Degaris PJ, Celi P, Mcneill DM, Rodney RM, Fraser DR. Influencing the future: Interactions of skeleton, energy, protein and calcium during late gestation and early lactation. Anim Prod Sci. 2014;54(9):1177-1189. doi:10.1071/AN14479.
  • LeBlanc S. Monitoring metabolic health of dairy cattle in the transition period. J Reprod Dev. 2010;56 Suppl:S29-35. doi:10.1262/jrd.1056S29.
  • Martinez N, Risco C a, Lima FS, et al. Evaluation of peripartal calcium status, energetic profile, and neutrophil function in dairy cows at low or high risk of developing uterine disease. J Dairy Sci. 2012;95(12):7158-7172. doi:10.3168/jds.2012-5812.
  • Martinez N, Sinedino LDP, Bisinotto RS, et al. Effect of induced subclinical hypocalcemia on physiological responses and neutrophil function in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2014;97(2):874-887. doi:10.3168/jds.2013-7408.
  • Neves RC, Leno BM, Stokol T, et al. Risk factors associated with postpartum subclinical hypocalcemia in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2017;159(0):702-706. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-11970.
  • Oetzel GR. Understanding the Impact of Subclinical Ketosis. 24th Rumin Nutr Symp Available http/ …. 2015:15-26.
  • Raboisson D, Mounié M, Maigné E. Diseases, reproductive performance, and changes in milk production associated with subclinical ketosis in dairy cows: a meta-analysis and review. J Dairy Sci. 2014;97(12):7547-7563. doi:10.3168/jds.2014-8237.
  • Ribeiro ES, Lima FS, Greco LF, et al. Prevalence of periparturient diseases and effects on fertility of seasonally calving grazing dairy cows supplemented with concentrates. J Dairy Sci. 2013;96(9):5682-5697. doi:10.3168/jds.2012-6335.
  • Suriyasathaporn W, Heuer C, Noordhuizen-Stassen EN, Schukken YH. Hyperketonemia and the impairment of udder defense: A review. Vet Res. 2000;31(4):397-412. doi:10.1051/vetres:2000128.
  • Tsiamadis V, Banos G, Panousis N, Kritsepi-Konstantinou M, Arsenos G, Valergakis GE. Genetic parameters of subclinical macromineral disorders and major clinical diseases in postparturient Holstein cows. J Dairy Sci. 2016;99(11):8901-8914. doi:10.3168/jds.2015-10789.

Strategic issues