August 27, 2020


Penn State University finds aspirin after calving boost dairy cattle milk production


Researchers at Penn State University found that a short course anti-inflammatory medication provided to dairy cattle after calving results in reduced metabolic stress and higher milk production compared to untreated cattle.


Dr. Adrian Barragan, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences clinical assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences and lead researcher said calving dairy cattle get stress and systemic inflammation, leading to possible disease risk as well as reduced health and performance.


The risk of diseases include udder infections (mastitis) and uterus bacterial infection (clinical metritis), the latter of which affects 40% of postpartum animals. According to previous research, producers can expect to be charged US$359 per clinical metritis case, with roughly US$650 million in losses total for the dairy industry because of this disease.


He said dairy cattle welfare and performance could be increased by lowering its stress and inflammation.


While there has been prior research in giving calving cattle nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to lower inflammation and boost milk production, it required extra labour through multiple labourious interventions. This, plus the length of treatment, making sure drug dosage is correct and the method of administrating the drugs was difficult for modern dairy farm logistics.


The new research aims at creating a less labour intensive, more affordable method compared to prior studies that can be adopted by producers.


The findings published in the Journal of Dairy Science hypothesised that NSAID acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) administered on calving cattle results in lower disease risk, reduced metabolic stress biomarkers and higher milk production when compared to cattle that are untreated.


Tests were conducted in a central Pennsylvania dairy farm with 246 cattle. Two treatments of aspirin were administered to the treatment group. One within 12 hours after birthing and another dose 24 hours later.


The cattle were given the aspirin through boluses (pill form). Previous studies pumped or injected the drug into the rumen, or mixed the drug with drinking water. Both methods took too much time, was labour intensive or when mixed with water, could result in inexact dosing.


Barragan said after 14 days, cattle administered with the proposed anti-inflammatory strategy were found to have reduced metabolic stress after calving. These cattle also had lower incidence of clinical metritis, compared to untreated cattle. The treated cattle produced 3.6 pounds more milk in the first 60 days compared to untreated cattle.


He said the projected value of higher milk production (for an average Pennsylvania dairy farm of 80 cattle) is about US$2,250 per year, accounting for current prices for milk and aspirin costs.


Barragan said the results indicate that the administration of an easy to use, affordable and and practical anti-inflammatory drug after calving could boost dairy cattle health, boosting livestock welfare and farm profitability.


Dr. Ernest Hovingh, extension veterinarian and associate research professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, Louise Byler, former research assistant in veterinary and biomedical sciences, Alan Ludwikowski, former undergraduate student in veterinary and biomedical sciences, and Stephanie Takitch, former undergraduate student in animal science were the remaining Penn State researchers and students contributing to the study.


Other team members of the research were Dr. Santiago Bas, of Phytobiotics Futterzusatzstoffe GmbH Bvd, Argentina; Dr. Jeffrey Lakritz, professor in the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine; and Joe Zug and Stacey Hann, of Zugstead Farm, Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

This research was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


-      Penn State University