Technical note: Effect of storage time and temperature on total calcium concentrations in bovine blood

J Dairy Sci. 2020 Jan;103(1):922-928. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-17394. Epub 2019 Nov 14.


Our objectives were to examine the stability of (1) serum and plasma total calcium (tCa) after delayed separation of bovine whole blood stored at 4°C, and (2) frozen serum and plasma tCa stored at -80°C. Whole blood was collected from 19 cows into vacutainer tubes (Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) containing no additives (serum) or lithium heparin (plasma). Baseline tCa concentrations (0-h tCa) were determined on serum and plasma harvested within 2 h of blood collection. To evaluate the effect of prolonged whole blood storage at 4°C, serum and plasma were harvested from samples after 6, 24, 48, 72 h, and 7 and 14 d of storage. For evaluation of the stability of frozen serum and plasma stored at -80°C, samples were stored for 7 d and 1, 3, 6, and 12 mo. The median 0-h tCa concentration for serum and plasma was 2.25 mmol/L (range: 1.58 to 2.60 mmol/L) and 2.28 mmol/L (range: 1.60 to 2.65 mmol/L), respectively. The average difference in tCa from 0-h samples ranged from -0.02 to 0.03 mmol/L for all samples stored at either 4 or -80°C. The median within-cow variability for whole blood samples stored at 4°C was 1.1 and 1.0% for serum and plasma, respectively, and for serum and plasma stored at -80°C was 1.1 and 1.3%, respectively. When whole blood was stored at 4°C, no differences in serum or plasma tCa concentrations were observed across the evaluated time points as compared with 0-h concentrations. Similarly, frozen serum and plasma stored at -80°C remained stable up to 12 mo. Therefore, our findings show that whole blood samples may be stored for at least 14 d at 4°C in vacutainer tubes containing no additives or lithium heparin without biologically important changes in tCa concentrations beyond expected analytical variation. Additionally, serum or plasma may be stored at -80°C for up to 12 mo with no effect on tCa concentrations.

Keywords: calcium; dairy cow; subclinical hypocalcemia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Specimen Collection / veterinary*
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Cattle / blood*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Female
  • Temperature


  • Calcium