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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition, Growth and Physiology » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335863

Title: Association of preweaning and weaning serum cortisol and metabolites with ADG and incidence of respiratory disease in beef cattle

item Foote, Andrew
item Jones, Shuna
item Kuehn, Larry

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/12/2017
Publication Date: 11/9/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Foote, A.P., Jones, S., Kuehn, L.A. 2017. Association of preweaning and weaning serum cortisol and metabolites with ADG and incidence of respiratory disease in beef cattle. Journal of Animal Science. 95(11):5012-5019.

Interpretive Summary: Measures of stress and metabolism have been shown to be indicative of growth and development of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) of beef cattle. It would be advantageous to be able to measure these markers earlier in life so that management strategies could be modified to improve production and wellbeing. This experiment was performed to determine if measurement of serum cortisol, lactate, and glucose prior to or at weaning would be predictive of average daily body weight gain (ADG) and development of BRD. Serum glucose at weaning tended to be predictive of lung lesions and cattle that were diagnosed with BRD tended to have lower pre-weaning glucose concentrations. Pre-weaning glucose was highly associated with pre-weaning and post-weaning ADG. The trend in the data likely indicates that calves that consume more milk prior to weaning grow slower after weaning. While stress measures early in life do not appear to be predictive of developing BRD, it does appear that glucose metabolism early in life can be predictive of growth potential of beef cattle.

Technical Abstract: The objectives of this experiment were to determine the association of circulating cortisol, lactate, and glucose early in life on ADG and incidences of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in cattle. A blood sample was collected approximately 3 wk prior to weaning and at weaning from genetically diverse steers and heifers (n = 451). Cattle were weighed periodically throughout the study and ADG was calculated for the preweaning period (152 +/- 15 d), the receiving period 45 d postweaning), the finishing period (200 d), and total postweaning ADG. Incidences of BRD were recorded and analyzed as a binary trait. Lung lesions were recorded at slaughter. Preweaning serum cortisol concentrations were positively associated (P = 0.040) with receiving ADG and explained 0.74% of the variance of receiving ADG. Preweaning glucose concentrations were positively associated (P < 0.001) with preweaning ADG and negatively associated with receiving (P = 0.003), finishing (P = 0.008), and total postweaning ADG (P = 0.002) and explained 2.0% of the variance in total postweaning ADG. Preweaning serum glucose concentrations could be indicative of variation in milk consumption, and therefore indicate calves receiving less milk grow slower prior to weaning, but experience compensatory gain postweaning. Cattle that were diagnosed with BRD (n = 130) grew slower during the receiving phase (P = 0.004), but total postweaning ADG was not different from cattle not diagnosed with BRD (P = 0.683). Additionally, cattle that were diagnosed with BRD in the feedlot tended to have slightly lower preweaning serum glucose concentrations (P = 0.062). Using a logistic regression analysis, none of the serum variables measured at or before weaning were predictive of developing BRD (P > 0.180). Weaning serum glucose concentrations tended to be predictive of the presence of lung lesions at weaning (P = 0.060). These data indicate that glucose measured early in life is associated with growth rate, and could indicate that carbohydrate metabolism could contribute to variation in ADG.