Alleviation of fatty liver in dairy cows with 14-day intravenous infusions of glucagon

J Dairy Sci. 1999 Jun;82(6):1139-52. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(99)75337-3.


Twenty multiparous cows were fed additional concentrate during the final 30 d prepartum to cause susceptibility to fatty liver. From 14 to 42 d postpartum, all cows were subjected to a protocol to induce fatty liver and ketosis. To test glucagon as a treatment for fatty liver, either glucagon at 10 mg/d or excipient was infused via the jugular vein from 21 to 35 d postpartum. All cows had fatty liver at 14 d postpartum and became ketonemic and hypoglycemic during the induction of ketosis. Glucagon increased plasma glucose to 142% of that of controls throughout the 14-d treatment. The hypoinsulinemia present in cows with fatty liver was not affected by glucagon. Plasma beta-hydroxybutyrate and nonesterified fatty acids were decreased by glucagon. At 6 d postpartum, liver triacylglycerol averaged 12.9% of liver (wet weight basis). Glucagon had decreased triacylglycerol content of livers by 71% at d 35. Glycogen was 1.0% of the wet weight of livers at 6 d in milk, but it was decreased by glucagon to 0.5% at 2 d after glucagon began. Glycogen then increased in cows treated with glucagon until at 38 d in milk liver glycogen was 3.7% versus 1.6% in controls. Our results document that glucagon decreases the degree of fatty liver in early lactation dairy cows, which also decreases the incidence of ketosis after alleviation of fatty liver.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid / blood
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Fatty Liver / drug therapy
  • Fatty Liver / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Glucagon / administration & dosage*
  • Glucagon / therapeutic use
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Insulin / blood
  • Ketosis / veterinary
  • Lactation
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Postpartum Period
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucagon
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid