The transition period is the most critical phase in the life of high yielding dairy cows. Within a few weeks, cows are submitted to many challenges (physiological, nutritional, psychological, management) that require prompt and effective adaptive responses. The immune system is involved in this process, and many changes of the cow's immune system components have been observed around calving. Cows are considered to be immunosuppressed in late lactation, and available data suggest that the immune system is dysregulated around parturition. Significant attention has been focused on modification of cellular functions (e.g. the reduction of phagocytosis and diapedesis), but growing interest concerns the components of the innate immune system, which often exhibits increased responses such as susceptibility to inflammatory events and the related acute phase response (APR). Systemic inflammation plays a significant role in early lactation, affects many liver functions and has been associated with the impairment of cow performance (i.e. reduced feed intake, milk yield, fertility, welfare). The assessment of variations in immune-metabolic indices offers opportunities to predict the onset of the health troubles and to anticipate the proper therapies needed to guarantee health, good welfare and fertility in the following lactation. The frequency of diseases (metabolic and infectious) before calving is rare, but several clues suggest that various metabolic and immune variations can begin during the dry period. Interesting preliminary results encourage this perspective and possible candidates are suggested.
Keywords: Transition period, Immune dysregulation, Inflammo-metabolic profile, Liver functionality, Prognostic biomarkers, Dairy cows.
This abstract was originally published in Research in Veterinary Science 116 (2018) 47–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2017.12.001.