• robustness;
  • expression analysis;
  • metabolism;
  • dairy cow


Blood plasma and hepatic parameters were identified that describe the differences between metabolically robust or vulnerable dairy cows grouped according to their past health status. Data from a field study on dairy cows were used from which metabolically challenged dairy cows were selected that had a milk fat percentage of >4.5 mg/g and a fat to protein ratio of >1.5 in their previous early lactation. The selected cows were either classified as metabolically robust or vulnerable based on the occurrence of various metabolic and (re)production disorders in their previous lactations. Blood and liver tissue samples were collected in week 3 ante partum (a.p.) (−3wk), in week 4 (+4wk) and in week 13 (+13wk) post-partum (p.p.). Plasma concentrations of metabolites and hormones and mRNA expression of genes involved in metabolic pathways in the liver were used as variables for a two-group discriminant analysis (DA). Average discriminant scores (centroids) were different (p < 0.05) in −3wk, +4wk and in +13wk. In −3wk, significant variables that best explained the differences between metabolically robust and vulnerable cows were parity, plasma triglycerides, glucose and mRNA abundance of carnitine palmitoyltransferase 2 (CPT2). In addition, based on the classification matrix, 69% of the dairy cows were correctly classified. In +4wk, identified significant parameters were parity, plasma glucose and urea, and 67% of the cows were correctly classified. In +13wk, significant variables that explained the differences between the groups were parity, mRNA abundance of acyl-CoA synthetase long-chain 1 and CPT1, and 66% of the cows were correctly classified. In conclusion, the identified variables may distinguish from metabolically challenged cows, those cows that had a poorer health performance in their previous lactations.