Discrimination of Lipogenic or Glucogenic Diet Effects in Early-Lactation Dairy Cows Using Plasma Metabolite Abundances and Ratios in Combination with Machine Learning

Xiaodan Wang, Sanjeevan Jahagirdar, Wouter Bakker, Carolien Lute, Bas Kemp, Ariette van Knegsel, Edoardo Saccenti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During early lactation, dairy cows have a negative energy balance since their energy demands exceed their energy intake: in this study, we aimed to investigate the association between diet and plasma metabolomics profiles and how these relate to energy unbalance of course in the early-lactation stage. Holstein-Friesian cows were randomly assigned to a glucogenic (n = 15) or lipogenic (n = 15) diet in early lactation. Blood was collected in week 2 and week 4 after calving. Plasma metabolite profiles were detected using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS), and a total of 39 metabolites were identified. Two plasma metabolomic profiles were available every week for each cow. Metabolite abundance and metabolite ratios were used for the analysis using the XGboost algorithm to discriminate between diet treatment and lactation week. Using metabolite ratios resulted in better discrimination performance compared with the metabolite abundances in assigning cows to a lipogenic diet or a glucogenic diet. The quality of the discrimination of performance of lipogenic diet and glucogenic diet effects improved from 0.606 to 0.753 and from 0.696 to 0.842 in week 2 and week 4 (as measured by area under the curve, AUC), when the metabolite abundance ratios were used instead of abundances. The top discriminating ratios for diet were the ratio of arginine to tyrosine and the ratio of aspartic acid to valine in week 2 and week 4, respectively. For cows fed the lipogenic diet, choline and the ratio of creatinine to tryptophan were top features to discriminate cows in week 2 vs. week 4. For cows fed the glucogenic diet, methionine and the ratio of 4-hydroxyproline to choline were top features to discriminate dietary effects in week 2 or week 4. This study shows the added value of using metabolite abundance ratios to discriminate between lipogenic and glucogenic diet and lactation weeks in early-lactation cows when using metabolomics data. The application of this research will help to accurately regulate the nutrition of lactating dairy cows and promote sustainable agricultural development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • energy unbalance
  • machine learning
  • milk
  • plasma
  • systems biology


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