Predicting metabolic health status using milk fatty acid concentrations in cows – a review
The extent of a metabolic disorder (e.g. ketosis) is not necessarily reflected by the concentration of ß-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in the blood, which is currently held as the gold standard in diagnosis. Also, for both economic and work-efficiency reasons, analysing blood is currently not applicable as a routine monitoring method for cows in the critical phase. Aim of this review was to examine the possibility of using milk fatty acids (FAs) and fatty acid (FA) ratios to predict negative energy balance (NEB), ketosis or metabolic disorders. After searching in two pertinent databases, eleven studies matched the relevant criteria. FA profiles were examined for correlations with the concentration of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) in blood in three studies, concentration of BHB in blood in five studies and different indicators of energy balance in four studies. One study developed linear regression models using FAs and FA ratios. Most studies found that short and medium-chained FAs (C4 – C14 and C5 – C15) are decreased during NEB, increased BHB or NEFA concentrations, whereas long-chained FAs (> C16) increase, especially cis-9 C18:1. A few single FAs and FA ratios such as cis-9 C16:1, cis-9 C16:1 to C15:0, C17:0 to C15:0 and C18:1 to C15:0 are correlated with a more severe NEB, elevated blood BHB or NEFA concentrations. Some might be useful in routine herd health monitoring despite having only moderate correlation coefficients. More promising than using single FAs or FA ratios to detect cows suffering from excessive NEB or metabolic disorders might be the implementation of refined prediction models in order to use all available information to predict the health status of both individual cows as well as the whole herd as exactly as possible.
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