Biomarker responses to weaning stress in beef calves

Res Vet Sci. 2014 Oct;97(2):458-63. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2014.06.003. Epub 2014 Jun 11.


The study objective was to investigate the physiological effects of weaning on beef calves and identify a panel of blood-based welfare biomarkers. On the day (d) of weaning (d 0), 16 spring-born, single-suckled, beef bull calves that previously grazed with their dams at pasture, were assigned to one of two treatments: (1) control (n = 8), calves were loose-housed with their dam, (2) weaned (n = 8), calves were abruptly separated from their dam and loose-housed. Jugular blood was collected on d -4, 0, 1, 2, 3, 7, and 14 relative to weaning (d 0) and assayed for inflammatory and steroid variables. Total leukocyte counts were measured in whole blood. It is concluded that neutrophil number is a robust biomarker of stress and that plasma CXCL8 is a sensitive indicator of stress in weaned and control calves. In future studies, these two biomarkers should be central to the characterisation of stress responses.

Keywords: Biomarkers; CXCL8; Cattle; Cortisol; Haematology; Stress; Weaning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / blood*
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Cell Count
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Interleukin-8 / blood*
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / cytology*
  • Seasons
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Weaning*


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-8
  • Hydrocortisone