Open Access
Esplin, Danielle Linda
Area of Honors:
Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Robert J. Van Saun, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lester C. Griel Jr., Honors Advisor
  • cow
  • cattle
  • ruminants
  • veterinary
  • nutrition
  • stillbirth
  • industry
  • dystocia
  • mineral
  • vitamins
  • pennsylvania
Dairy and beef cattle industries continually face economic loss due to stillbirth. While dystocia is estimated to cause the majority of stillbirths, the remaining 30-40% remain unaccounted for, and bode further cost for the industry unless studied. The objective of this study was to investigate other possible related causes of stillbirth, emphasizing on nutrition, in Pennsylvania dairy and beef calves. This study submitted stillborn calves, defined as late term fetus at least 265 days of gestation born dead or died within six hours of birth with no signs of dystocia, through the Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. Samples were submitted for microbiologic testing to address BVD, IBR, leptospirosis, Neospora, and routine microbiologic culture. Liver samples were collected and submitted for mineral analysis ICP/MS for calcium, magnesium, cobalt, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc. Liver vitamin A and E concentrations were determined via HPLC methodology. All values were determined on a wet weight bases and converted to dry weight based on measured dry matter ratio of liver samples. A total of 27 stillborn calves were collected meeting the study definition; each of these were categorized based on summary demographics, physical parameters, microbiologic findings, and nutritional findings. There was equal distribution of bull and heifer calves with extra samples unreported for gender (5/27, 18.5%). Of the submissions, the majority of the calves were dairy (20/27, 74.07%). Of the dairy, the most breeds submitted were Holstein (19/20, 95%). For beef calves submitted (7/27, 25.92%), the breeds varied, but the most were Angus (5/7, 71.42%). Mean crown-rump length and birth weight was 93.8 ± 11.1 cm and 66.4 ± 18 lb for all samples, 93.7 ± 9.3 cm and 68.3 ± 19 lb for dairy calves and 91.8 ± 8.2 cm and 62.0 ± 16.5 lb for beef calves, respectively. Two cases were considered outliers and not included in these body weight means: one large beef calf (121 lb) and one small dairy calf (36 lb). No calf had inflated lungs, with respectively 69% and 31% none or partial lung insufflation. Two (7.4%) calves were considered to have congenital defects, up to possibly 7 (25.9%) calves had an identified infectious agent and 17 (63%) i ii of cases had no definitive stillbirth diagnosis. Mineral and vitamin concentrations were compared to Michigan State’s laboratory fetal/newborn-based criteria. Vitamin A deficiency (<8 μg/g DW) was the primary (18/27, 67%) vitamin abnormality. Low hepatic mineral concentrations were seen with cobalt (13/27, 48.1%), selenium (11/27, 40.7%), manganese (7/27, 25.9%), iron (5/27, 18.5%), copper (2/27, 7.4%) and zinc (3/27, 11.1%). Excessively high iron and zinc concentrations were found in 6 (22.2%) and 11 (40.7%) cases, respectively. This data suggests an influence of vitamin and mineral deficiency on neonatal calf health, and may affect stillbirth incidence in dairy and beef industries. To better understand the effect of each nutrition status on the stillbirth, further study is necessary.