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Research article2008Peer reviewed

Evaluation of biochemical and ultrasonographic measurements as indicators of undernutrition in cattle

Strydom, S.; Agenas, S.; Heath, M. F.; Phillips, C. J. C.; Rautenbach, G. H.; Thompson, P. N.


Body condition scoring (BCS) gives an indication of the nutritional status of an animal and it is thus an invaluable management tool in domestic livestock systems. It is, however, subjective. This study aimed at identifying biochemical indicators which could be objectively used as an indicator of undernutrition in ruminants. Blood samples were collected from 50 cattle with BCS <= 1 and from 50 cattle with BCS >= 2.5, using a 0-5 scale, and analysed for albumin, urea, creatinine, fructosamine, beta-hydroxybutyrate, non-esterified fatty acids, total serum protein and haematocrit. Rumpfat and ribfat thickness and marbling relative index were determined ultrasonographically in 15 of the low BCS group and 13 of the high BCS group. The laboratory measure with the best predictive ability for severe undernutrition was albumin, which correctly classified 94% of cattle, using a cut-off of 31.5 g/l. In contrast to a previous study, our study did not find the fructosamine:albumin ratio to be an accurate test to indicate undernutrition in cattle. Ultrasonic measurement of subcutaneous rumpfat and ribfat proved to reliably predict undernutrition, but may, however be impractical for routine use under most field conditions.


Biochemical indicators; body condition scoring; cattle; ultrasonography; undernutrition

Published in

Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research
2008, Volume: 75, number: 3, pages: 207-213