Associations among post-partum rumen fill and motility, subclinical ketosis and fertility in Holstein dairy cows

G. E. Valergakis*, N. Siachos, A. Kougioumtzis, G. Banos, N. Panousis, V. Tsiamadis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This prospective observational study aimed to investigate the association of rumen fill and motility in post-partum Holstein cows with their future reproductive performance and subclinical ketosis (SCK). The study population consisted of two independent data sets: the first (DS1) included 237 cows from 6 herds and the second one (DS2) 709 cows from 9 herds. Rumen Fill Score (RFS) was transformed into a 3 level-trait, representing very low, low and adequate dry matter intake, respectively. A binary Rumen Contraction Score (RCS) was defined as: 0: <2 contractions/2 min, impaired rumen motility and 1: ≥2 contractions/2 min, normal rumen motility. A combined binary trait based on RFS and RCS (RFCS) was also established, representing unsatisfactory and satisfactory rumen function. Three SCK traits were defined, based on 3 different thresholds, SCK_I: BHB≥1,000 mmol/L, SCK_II: BHB≥1,100 mmol/L and SCK_III: BHB≥1,200 mmol/L. Scores were assessed and blood samples collected on day 7 (DS1) or day 8 (DS2), postpartum. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, multivariable Cox proportional hazards models and Generalized Linear Mixed Models were performed to evaluate the association of rumen and SCK traits with reproduction. Herd, parity, calving season and several postparturient diseases were also included as potential explanatory variables. Mean days from calving to pregnancy after the 1st artificial insemination (AI) and from calving to pregnancy (all AIs) were shorter for levels of rumen traits representing adequate DMI and normal rumen motility; in most cases these differences were statistically significant in both datasets. Cows with adequate DMI and normal rumen motility (only in DS2) had greater hazard (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.84 and 1.61, for RFS and RFCS, respectively) and odds (odds ratio [OR] = 2.49 and 1.98, for RFS and RFCS, respectively) for pregnancy at 1st AI. Assessment of the association of examined rumen traits with hazard and odds for pregnancy at all AIs yielded statistically significant results in both datasets. For RFS, RCS and RFCS, HRs ranged from 1.57 to 3.31 and ORs from 1.95 to 4.83. No statistically significant associations with hazard and odds for pregnancy at 1st or all AIs were detected, for any of the 3 SCK traits, in either dataset. Overall, the combined RFCS trait constantly identified more than twice the number of cows with future reproductive problems than a positive SCK blood test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-117
Number of pages11
Early online date19 Oct 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Jan 2024

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© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Dairy cow reproduction
  • rumen fill and motility
  • Subclinical ketosis


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