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Revista MVZ Córdoba

Print version ISSN 0122-0268

Rev.MVZ Cordoba vol.20 no.2 Córdoba May/Aug. 2015



Evaluation of macrominerals concentrations in blood of lactating and dry Desi cows

Evaluación de concentraciones de macrominerales en sangre de vacas Desi lactantes y secas

Zafar Iqbal Khan,1 Ph.D, Alireza Bayat,2 Ph.D, Kafeel Ahmad,1 Ph.D, Muhammad Sher,3 Ph.D, Muhammad Khalid Mukhtar,1 Ph.D, Zafar Hayat,4 Ph.D, Vincenzo Tufarelli,5* Ph.D.

1University of Sargodha, Department of Biological Sciences, Pakistan.
2Animal Production Research, MTT, FI 31600, Jokioinen, Finland.
3University of Sargodha, Department of Chemistry, Pakistan.
4University of Sargodha, Department of Animal Sciences, Pakistan.
5University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro', Department of Emergency and Organ Transplantation, Section of Veterinary Science and Animal Production, Bari, Italy.


Received: October 2014; Accepted: March 2015.


Objective. This study was conducted during winter season at rural livestock farm of district Sargodha, Pakistan, in order to define the macrominerals status in blood plasma of lactating and dry Desi breed cows. Material and methods. Twenty lactating and twenty dry cows were used and their blood plasma was analyzed for Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu and Fe using atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Results. In lactating cows, the plasma Ca concentration was lower than dry cows (6.8 vs. 7.6 mg/dl, p<0.001), while Mg concentration was similar between lactating and dry cows. Plasma Zn concentration in lactating cows was higher than dry cows (0.78 vs. 0.60mg/l, p<0.01) and it resulted lower than the normal range in both groups. Plasma Cu level in lactating cows was lower than dry cows (0.56 vs. 0.76 mg/L, p<0.001) and it was lower than the normal range only in lactating cows. Lactating cows resulted in higher plasma Fe concentration compared to dry cows (3.8 versus 2.6 mg/L; p<0.01). Conclusions. From our findings, it can be concluded that the observed minerals level meets the needs of ruminants and the plasma level of different minerals is affected by the physiological stages of cows.

Key words: Dry cow, lactating cow, minerals, plasma (Source: CAB).


Objetivo. Este estudio se realizó durante la estación de invierno en la granja de ganado rural del distrito de Sargodha, Pakistán, con el fin de definir el estado de macrominerales en el plasma sanguíneo de vacas lactantes y secas de raza Desi. Materiales y métodos. Veinte vacas lactantes y veinte vacas secas fueron utilizadas y se analizó el plasma para el Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu y Fe utilizando un espectrofotómetro de absorción atómica. Resultados. En las vacas lactantes, la concentración de Ca en plasma fue menor que en las vacas secas (6.8 frente a 7.6 mg/dl, p<0.001), mientras que la concentración de Mg fue similar entre las lactantes y las vacas secas. La concentración plasmática de Zn en las vacas lactantes fue mayor que en las vacas secas (0.78 frente a 0.60 mg/L, p<0.01) y resultó inferior al rango normal en ambos grupos. Nivel de plasma de Cu en vacas lactantes fue inferior al de las vacas secas (0.56 vs a 0.76 mg/L, p<0.001) y fue inferior al rango normal sólo en las vacas lactantes. Las vacas lactantes resultaron en mayor concentración de Fe plasmático en comparación con las vacas secas (3.8 frente a 2.6 mg/l, p<0.01). Conclusiones. A partir de los resultados, se puede concluir que el nivel de minerales observados satisface las necesidades de los rumiantes y el nivel plasmático de diferentes minerales se ve afectado por las etapas fisiológicas de las vacas.

Palabras clave: Búfalos, embrión, fertilización In vitro , reproducción (Fuente: MeSH).


Livestock needs the balanced and suitable levels of all the required nutrients for their animal health and production in any physiological stage (1). Minerals represent essential nutrients having a pronounced function in the life of organisms as their imbalances exert undesirable effects, especially in ruminants. Various microelements and some macro elements have been known to be very essential for livestock growth (2,3). Microelements function as cofactors are involved in many structural molecules in living organisms (2,4).

The elemental composition of body tissue fluids commonly reflects the dietary level of ruminants to a certain extent, depending on the animal tissue fluid and the mineral element in question. Chemical composition of animal tissue fluids can therefore be employed to assess the range of mineral elemental adequacies in ruminants. The blood plasma is an excellent indicator of minerals in animals, and also can be easily obtained from the animal without slaughtering procedures (2). Although some information is attainable on the normal mineral profile of Sahiwal cattle (5), however very little information is available on the mineral status of Desi cows. Therefore, the aim of this investigation is to evaluate the mineral status of lactating and dry cows comparatively. It is expected that the results will be useful for formulating the mineral mixtures to overcome the deficiency and toxicity of different minerals in this livestock species.


Study site. Pakistan is mainly an agricultural country with an arid and semi-arid continental subtropical climate. It is located between 23 and 36o N latitude and 60 and 75° E longitude.

The present investigation was conducted on Desi breed cows reared in the district of Sargodha, at a rural livestock farm during the winter season of 2013. The district of Sargodha is located between 30° 05' N longitude and 72° 67' E latitude and its altitude is 180 m above sea level. Different improved pastures as feeding sites for animals are possessed by the livestock farm. The pastures were fertilized and irrigated with tubewell and canal water. The main forage species available to animals during the winter were Medicago sativa and Trifolium alexandrinum as major forages, and Cichorium intybus, Brassica compestris, and Avena sativa as minor forages. The pasture was the main source of feeding for dairy cattle during the research period.

Animals, sample collection and analysis. Twenty lactating and twenty dry Desi cows, with an average body weight of 315 ± 37 kg (mean ± standard deviation) and having 2-5 years old of age, were chosen and considered as experimental groups. About 20 ml of blood from each animal was obtained in a clean sterilized glass test tube having heparin, as an anticoagulant, through jugular vein three times from October to December by one month interval at 11:00 am.

Blood was centrifuged (3.000 rpm × 15-30 min) and separated plasma was stored at -20°C until analysis. Wet digestion using perchloric acid and nitric acid (6). The plasma minerals including calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe) were determined using atomic absorption spectrophotometer (Perkin Elmer Corp.) according to the method of Akhtar et al (3).

Statistical analysis. Data were subjected to statistical analysis using the SPSS software and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) worked out. Statistical significance between the mean values was tested at p<0.05 level (7,8).


Mean plasma concentrations for Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu and Fe in lactating and dry cows are presented in table 1. Plasma Ca concentration was significantly higher in dry compared to lactating cows (7.6 versus 6.8 mg/dl; p<0.001). Plasma Mg level was higher, but not significantly, in lactating compared to dry cows (1.60 versus 1.20 mg/dl; p>0.05). Significant higher blood plasma Zn concentration was found in the lactating cows compared to the dry cows (0.78 versus 0.60 mg/l; p<0.01). The Cu concentration of plasma was significantly lower in lactating compared to dry cows (0.56 versus 0.76 mg/l; p<0.001). The Fe concentration in blood plasma was significantly higher in lactating cows compared to dry cows (3.8 versus 2.6 mg/l; p<0.01).


Significant differences in plasma Ca concentrations in cows in different physiological stages, similarly to our results, have been previously reported by other Authors (5,9). In the present investigation, the low plasma Ca concentrations in lactating animals might be due to the physiological status of the animals; since blood Ca concentration is under the control of hormones, such as calcitonin and parathormone, acting on the kidneys, intestines and bones, and in dry cows, the blood levels of some vitamins which are under the control of these hormones increasing with the beginning of lactation (10). When ruminants start the lactation period, a reduction in plasma Ca concentration takes place due to high Ca requirements for milk production, and then Ca level starts to increase due to decreasing milk yield (11,12).

In both dry and lactating groups, the plasma Mg concentrations were lower than the suggested value of 2 mg/dl for ruminants as described by Xin et al (13). Low plasma Mg concentration would be expected due to low Mg concentration in the forage and the mineral supplement consumed. The findings of the present investigation are also consistent with those reported by Khan et al (14) who reported similar low Mg concentration in the blood plasma of cattle and buffalo indicating the deficiency of this element. The most plausible reasons for low plasma Mg concentration might be the low absorption capacity of Mg in the gastrointestinal tract of animals (15) and the low Mg concentration in forage and mineral supplement.

Plasma Zn concentrations of cows in both physiological stages were below the normal range of 0.80 mg/L suggested by McDowell (16). However, no animal in both groups exhibited clinical signs of Zn deficiency such as rough skin with lesions. Other elements are involved in Zn metabolism in non ruminants, although in ruminants no such interactions with other elements have been yet reported (16,17). It has also been reported that when Zn is bound to cell wall constituents, its bioavailability might reduce in livestock (18). Therefore, low Zn availability in animals in the present investigation might be due to such factors, hindering its availability. However, results of the current study are in agreement with the findings of other trials (19-21).

The Cu concentration in plasma of lactating cows was lower than the critical concentration of 0.65 mg/L suggested by McDowell (16). However, in dry animals, the higher plasma Cu concentration compared to the critical value suggests that these animals do suffer from Cu deficiency. Similar differences in plasma Cu concentration have already been reported between different physiological groups of ruminants by researchers in Pakistan (5,21), Colombia (22) and Nicaragua (23). These differences may be due to difference in geographical areas because of the blood mineral concentrations in animals have been reported to be differ from area to area (24). Contrary to our findings, Asif et al (5) reported significant lower Cu in plasma of cattle; however, the reason is still unclear.

The Fe plasma concentrations were sufficiently higher than the critical value of 1.10 mg/L suggested by McDowell (16). It has been reported that Fe deficiency is not a relevant problem in ruminant species and it only occurs when there is some loss of blood (15). Plasma Fe levels similar to the values obtained in our investigation have previously been reported for various classes of animals (22,25). Availability of Fe in blood plasma is dependent on many factors; for instance, in some cases, high concentrations of phosphorus and phytate in the diet may reduce its absorption due to formation of insoluble complexes in the intestinal tracts of animals (17). In fact, Fe deficiency is not commonly widespread for grazing ruminants due to high concentrations of Fe in pasture as well as contamination of forages by soil particles and both these factors contribute much to the Fe requirements of animals (12).

The Fe deficiency becomes a problem when livestock are kept on low Fe content forages, and supplementation of this element may reduce weight losses in lactating animals and cause very rapid weight compensation in suckling animals (12). The Fe deficiency has been reported in some regions of the world at a time when ruminants grazed forage plants grow on sandy soils and have heavy insects or parasite infestation, then Fe supplementation has been useful for the suffering animals. The blood levels, as well as the condition of the ruminants have been improved under supplementation regime (12,26). It has also been investigated that Fe supplementation shows no response in older animals consuming ordinary diets. However, Fe deficiency exists and in some cases, its supplementation exhibit marked improvement in the reproduction potential of the ruminants (10). In our investigation, the animals showed no Fe deficiency but it is possible that its supplementation would encourage reproduction capacity of the livestock grazing therein as Fe levels in blood plasma was lower than the suggested level.

The plasma concentrations of elements were not only different in animals with different physiological stages (i.e., lactating vs. dry cows), but were also different compared to the animals in other areas and zones, indicating the area effect. It is possible that forage plants grown in pastures grazed by animals may have lower mineral element levels, at least for some minerals, due to leaching soil minerals by water and this deficiency is shown in the plasma minerals profile of ruminants reared in these areas. It has already been reported the mineral profiles of plants vary with the soil chemistry and also by the climatic factors such as temperature, precipitation and drainage of the particular region (2,13).

In conclusion the results of this trial indicated that plasma Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu and Fe concentrations are influenced by physiological stage in dairy cows. In fact, the plasma Ca and Cu concentrations were higher whereas plasma Mg, Zn and Fe levels were lower in dry cows compared to lactating cows. Therefore, our results can be considered useful for formulating the mineral mixtures to overcome the deficiency and toxicity of different minerals in cows.


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