Evaluating differences in milk production, reproductive performance, and survival associated with vaginal discharge characteristics and fever in postpartum dairy cows

J Dairy Sci. 2024 Apr 3:S0022-0302(24)00637-4. doi: 10.3168/jds.2023-23905. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The objective was to assess differences in productive and reproductive performance, and survival associated with vaginal discharge characteristics and fever in postpartum dairy cows located in Western and Southern states of the U.S.A. This retrospective cohort study included data from 3 experiments conducted in 9 dairies. Vaginal discharge was evaluated twice within 12 DIM and scored on a 5-point scale. The highest score observed for each cow was used for group assignment (VD group) as follows: VD 1 and 2 (VD 1/2; n = 1,174) = clear mucus/lochia with or without flecks of pus; VD 3 (n = 1,802) = mucopurulent with < 50% pus; VD 4 (n = 1,643) = mucopurulent with ≥50% of pus or non-fetid reddish/brownish mucous, n = 1,643; VD 5 = fetid, watery, and reddish/brownish, n = 1,800. All VD 5 cows received treatment according to each herd's protocol. Rectal temperature was assessed in a subset of VD 5 cows, and subsequently divided into Fever (rectal temperature ≥39.5°C; n = 334) and NoFever (n = 558) groups. A smaller proportion of cows with VD 5 (67.6%) resumed ovarian cyclicity compared with VD 1/2 (76.2%) and VD 4 (72.9%) cows; however, a similar proportion of VD5 and VD 3 (72.6%) cows resumed ovarian cyclicity. A smaller proportion of VD 5 (85.8%) cows received at least one artificial insemination (AI) compared with VD 1/2 (91.5%), VD 3 (91.0%), or VD 4 (91.6%) cows. Although we did not detect differences in pregnancy at first AI according to VD, fewer cows with VD 5 (64.4%) were pregnant at 300 DIM than cows with VD 1/2 (76.5%), VD 3 (76.2%), or VD 4 (74.7%). Hazard of pregnancy by 300 DIM was smaller for VD 5 compared with VD 1/2, VD 3, or VD 4 cows. A greater proportion of VD 5 cows were removed from the herd within 300 DIM compared with other VD groups. There was 760 kg lesser milk production within 300 DIM for VD 5 compared with VD 2, VD 3, and VD 4, whereas VD 2, VD 3, and VD 4 had similar milk production. We did not detect an association between fever at diagnosis of VD 5 and reproductive performance or milk production. A greater proportion of VD 5 cows without fever were removed from the herd by 300 DIM compared with VD 5 cows with fever. Differences in productive and reproductive performance, and removal of the herd were restricted to fetid, watery, and reddish/brownish vaginal discharge, which was independent of fever.

Keywords: Uterine disease; dairy cow; fever; vaginal discharge.