Effects of repeated jugular puncture on plasma cortisol concentrations in loose-housed dairy cows

H. Hopster, J.T.N. van der Werf, J.H.F. Erkens, H.J. Blokhuis

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    Abstract

    In three experiments, the effects of venipuncture on plasma cortisol concentrations were studied in loose-housed dairy cows. In Exp. 1, two blood samples were collected 18 min apart on three alternate days from 20 dairy cows for studying their adrenocortical response to a single venipuncture. To further evaluate the effect of cows anticipating venipuncture, in Exp. 2, 15 dairy cows were sequentially venipunctured once daily on 12 successive days in a randomized order in groups of five, starting 15 min apart. In Exp. 3, 10 primiparous cows were used on three alternate days to study habituation to serial sampling (i.e., collection of five blood samples by venipuncture, 15 min apart). In cows accustomed to handling, jugular puncture did not affect cortisol concentrations in plasma collected 18 min later. Average daily cortisol concentrations varied between 2.07 ± .38 and 3.81 ± .56 ng/mL in the first (t = 0) and between 1.43 ± .15 and 2.61 ± .72 ng/mL in the second (t = 18) blood samples. Likewise, when cows were sampled sequentially once a day, the order of sampling between and within groups did not influence (P > .05) plasma cortisol concentrations. In contrast, primiparous dairy cows that were less used to being handled showed an average increase in cortisol concentrations when five samples were collected by venipuncture 15 min apart. During successive sampling sessions, however, the cows did not decrease or increase plasma cortisol concentrations in response to repeated serial sampling at the group level (P > .05). Between individuals, the maximum effect of repeated venipuncture on cortisol concentrations (4.5 to 22.6 ng/mL), the time at which the effect reached its maximum (30 to 60 min), and the consistency of the response pattern over successive series varied largely. The results of this study show that in cows that were accustomed to handling and to being restrained, baseline cortisol concentrations can be measured in single blood samples that are collected by jugular puncture within l min after first approaching the cow. When successive blood samples need to be collected within 15 to 20 min, jugular puncture may induce an increase in cortisol concentration, which seems to depend on the handling experience of the animals and on individual differences.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)708-714
    JournalJournal of Animal Science
    Volume77
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

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