Body condition score at calving affects systemic and hepatic transcriptome indicators of inflammation and nutrient metabolism in grazing dairy cows

H. Akbar, T. M. Grala, M. Vailati Riboni, F. C. Cardoso, G. Verkerk, J. McGowan, K. Macdonald, J. Webster, K. Schutz, S. Meier, L. Matthews, J. R. Roche, J. J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Calving body condition score (BCS) is an important determinant of early-lactation dry matter intake, milk yield, and disease incidence. The current study investigated the metabolic and molecular changes induced by the change in BCS. A group of cows of mixed age and breed were managed from the second half of the previous lactation to achieve mean group BCS (10-point scale) that were high (HBCS, 5.5; n = 20), medium (MBCS, 4.5; n = 18), or low (LBCS, 3.5; n = 19). Blood was sampled at wk -4, -3, -2, 1, 3, 5, and 6 relative to parturition to measure biomarkers of energy balance, inflammation, and liver function. Liver was biopsied on wk 1, 3, and 5 relative to parturition, and 10 cows per BCS group were used for transcript profiling via quantitative PCR. Cows in HBCS and MBCS produced more milk and had greater concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate postpartum than LBCS. Peak concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate and greater hepatic triacylglycerol concentrations were recorded in HBCS at wk 3. Consistent with blood biomarkers, HBCS and MBCS had greater expression of genes associated with fatty acid oxidation (CPT1A, ACOX1), ketogenesis (HMGCS2), and hepatokines (FGF21, ANGPTL4), whereas HBCS had the lowest expression of APOB (lipoprotein transport). Greater expression during early lactation of BBOX1 in MBCS and LBCS suggested greater de novo carnitine synthesis. The greater BCS was associated with lower expression of growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling axis genes (GHR1A, IGF1, and IGFALS) and greater expression of gluconeogenic genes. These likely contributed to the higher milk production and greater gluconeogenesis. Despite greater serum haptoglobin around calving, cows in HBCS and MBCS had greater blood albumin. Cows in MBCS, however, had a higher albumin:globulin ratio, probably indicating a less pronounced inflammatory status and better liver function. The marked decrease in expression of NFKB1, STAT3, HP, and SAA3 coupled with the increase in ALB on wk 3 in MBCS cows were consistent with blood measures. Overall, results suggest that the greater milk production of cows with higher calving BCS is associated with a proinflammatory response without negatively affecting expression of genes related to metabolism and the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 axis. Results highlight the sensitivity of indicators of metabolic health and inflammatory state to subtle changes in calving BCS and, collectively, indicate a suboptimal health status in cows calving at either BCS 3.5 or 5.5 relative to BCS 4.5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1019-1032
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Body condition score
  • Gene expression
  • Grazing dairy cow
  • Liver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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