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Vet. Res.
Volume 34, Number 6, November-December 2003
Page(s) 721 - 736
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2003) 721-736
Vet. Res. 34 (2003) 721-736
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2003034

The effect of milk production level on host resistance of dairy cows, as assessed by the severity of experimental Escherichia coli mastitis

Esther Kornalijnslijpera, Bonne Beerdab, Ineke Daemena, Joop van der Werfb, Tine van Wervena, Theo Niewoldb, Victor Ruttenc and Elsbeth Noordhuizen-Stassena

a  Department of Farm Animal Health, Ruminant Health Unit, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 7, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands
b  Division of Animal Sciences, Institute for Animal Science and Health, PO Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands
c  Immunology Division, Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 1, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands

(Received 23 December 2002, accepted 14 April 2003)

This study investigated the possible effects of milk production level on the host resistance of dairy cows. High ( n = 18) and low ( n = 18) producing cows on a research farm, which respectively produced 11 443 and 7 727 kg milk in their previous lactation, were compared. To enhance the possible differences in host resistance between high and low producing cows, the animals in both groups were metabolically stressed by overfeeding during the dry period or were fed according to requirements, resulting in four groups of nine cows. The metabolic status was monitored from two weeks pre-partum until 2.5-4.5 weeks post-partum. Host resistance was assessed by measuring the severity of experimentally induced Escherichia coli mastitis. Pre-partum blood glucose levels tended to be higher in overfed cows than in cows fed according to requirements. The post-partum energy balance was significantly more negative in high producing cows than in low producers, and tended to be more negative in overfed cows compared to cows fed according to the requirements. Post-partum plasma glucose, NEFA, $\beta$-OH-butyrate and urea concentrations were similar in the four groups. Plasma glucose concentrations were significantly lower and liver triacylglycerol concentrations were significantly higher in third than in second parity cows. Host resistance was not affected by the production level or feeding regimen. There were no significant correlations between the metabolic status and the severity of experimental E. coli mastitis, except for the relatively more severe mastitis in the cows with $\beta$-OH-butyrate concentrations above 1.4 mmol/L. In conclusion, milk production level did not affect host resistance in dairy cows, as measured by the severity of experimental E. coli mastitis. Even in a situation where cows were metabolically stressed by overfeeding, high producers were as able as low producers to cope with the demands of milk production, without consequences for host resistance.

Key words: dairy cow / milk production / host resistance / metabolism / E. coli mastitis

Correspondence and reprints: Esther Kornalijnslijper

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2003