Open Access Research article

Effect of induced ruminal acidosis on blood variables in heifers

Giorgio Marchesini1, Roberta De Nardi1, Matteo Gianesella1, Anna-Lisa Stefani2, Massimo Morgante1, Antonio Barberio2, Igino Andrighetto12 and Severino Segato1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Medicine, Production and Health, University of Padova, Legnaro, (PD) 35020, Italy

2 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Legnaro, (PD) 35020, Italy

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:98  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-98

Published: 6 May 2013



Ruminal acidosis is responsible for the onset of different pathologies in dairy and feedlot cattle, but there are major difficulties in the diagnosis. This study modelled the data obtained from various blood variables to identify those that could indicate the severity of ruminal acidosis. Six heifers were fed three experimental rations throughout three periods. The diets were characterised by different starch levels: high starch (HS), medium starch (MS) and low starch, as the control diet (CT). Ruminal pH values were continuously measured using wireless sensors and compared with pH measurements obtained by rumenocentesis. Blood samples were analysed for complete blood count, biochemical profile, venous blood gas, blood lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and LPS-binding proteins (LBP).


The regression coefficient comparing the ruminal pH values, obtained using the two methods, was 0.56 (P = 0.040). Feeding the CT, MS and HS led to differences in the time spent below the 5.8, 5.5 and 5.0 pH thresholds and in several variables, including dry matter intake (7.7 vs. 6.9 vs. 5.1 kg/d; P = 0.002), ruminal nadir pH (5.69 vs. 5.47 vs. 5.44; P = 0.042), mean ruminal pH (6.50 vs. 6.34 vs. 6.31; P = 0.012), haemoglobin level (11.1 vs. 10.9 vs. 11.4 g/dL; P = 0.010), platelet count (506 vs. 481 vs. 601; P = 0.008), HCO3- (31.8 vs. 31.3 vs. 30.6 mmol/L; P = 0.071) and LBP (5.9 vs. 9.5 vs. 10.5 μg/mL; P < 0.001). A canonical discriminant analysis (CDA) was used to classify the animals into four ruminal pH classes (normal, risk of acidosis, subacute ruminal acidosis and acute ruminal acidosis) using haemoglobin, mean platelet volume, β-hydroxybutyrate, glucose and reduced haemoglobin.


Although additional studies are necessary to confirm the reliability of these discriminant functions, the use of plasma variables in a multifactorial model appeared to be useful for the evaluation of ruminal acidosis severity.

Ruminal acidosis; Blood variables; Wireless rumen sensor; Heifers