Age-related changes in arterial blood-gas variables in Holstein calves at moderate altitude
Joseph M Neary,1 Franklyn B Garry,1 Sarah M Raabis2
1Integrated Livestock Management, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA; 2Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
Abstract: The goal of this study was to determine whether peripheral oxygen delivery and efficacy of alveolar-arterial oxygen (A-a O2) transfer, as estimated from the A-a O2 pressure gradient, are compromised in Holstein calves at moderate altitude. The primary objective was to evaluate age-related changes in arterial blood-gas variables, L-lactate, and hematocrit in healthy calves. The secondary objective was to determine if coughing and nasal discharge, commonly used indicators of respiratory disease, are associated with A-a O2 gradient. Arterial blood-gas tensions were evaluated in a cohort of 61 dairy calves on one farm at moderate altitude (1,601 m to 1,696 m). Sampling was performed on four occasions at approximately 10, 38, 150, and 261 days of age. Hyperventilation, as indicated by hypocapnia, was evident in calves of all ages. Increasing age was associated with a nonlinear increase in arterial oxygen tension (P<0.001) and a nonlinear decrease in A-a O2 gradient (P<0.001). The mean A-a O2 gradient at 10 and 38 days of age was over 18 mmHg, indicating poor efficacy of oxygen transfer. Cough score (P=0.02) but not nasal score (P=0.32) was associated with an in increase in A-a O2 pressure gradient. Mean hematocrit remained low (<27%) despite hypoxemia. From 38 days of age, median L-lactate concentration remained over 1.5 mmol/L, indicating substantial anaerobic respiration due to inadequate oxygen delivery. Twenty-five percent of calves were treated for respiratory disease. The maximum age at first treatment was 102 days. In conclusion, there was a nonlinear improvement in A-a O2 transfer efficacy with increasing age, but peripheral oxygen delivery remained compromised. Hyperventilation and impaired A-a O2 transfer due to functional immaturity of the pulmonary system may be risk factors for respiratory disease in dairy calves at moderate altitude.
Keywords: calf, dairy, respiratory disease, oxygen
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