• Evaluation of an investigative model in dairy herds with high calf perinatal mortality rates in Switzerland

      Mock, Thomas; Mee, John F; Detwiler, Martina; Rodriguez-Campos, Sabrina; Hüsler, Jürg; Michel, Brigitte; Häfliger, Irene M.; Drogemuller, Cord; Bodmer, Michele; Hirsbrunner, Gaby; et al. (Theriogenology, 2020-02-24)
      The objective of this study was to evaluate an investigative model which encompassed the risk factors, incidence, timing and causes of perinatal mortality (PM) (0–48 h) on high risk dairy farms (PM of >5% in the previous year) in Switzerland. This pilot-study was carried out on 47 predominantly Holstein PM calves from 21 dairy farms, between September 2016 and January 2018. Gross pathological examinations of calves and placentae as well as histopathological examinations of internal organs and placental tissue were performed. Further investigations included microbiological examinations: broad-spectrum bacterial and fungal culture, detection of Chlamydia abortus, Coxiella burnetii, pathogenic Leptospira spp. and Neospora caninum by real-time PCR (qPCR) and of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) by Ag-ELISA. Maternal blood samples were used for serology of bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1), Brucella abortus, Chlamydia abortus, Coxiella burnetii and nine pathogenic leptospiral serovars and the evaluation of trace element status. A questionnaire was completed with the farmer, which included general farm characteristics and case-related data. Inbreeding coefficients (IC) were calculated for pure-bred matings. At the farm-level, the PM rate was 10.0% (5.3–28.2%) and at the cow-level, 11.5%. These values, from high-risk farms, were approximately five-times higher than the contemporary national bovine PM rate (2.3%) in Switzerland. The risk factors associated with these high PM rates were the self-selection of high risk herds, the high proportion of primiparae in these herds (45%) and the evidence of widespread pathogenic infections on these farms (exposure: 67% of herds, 53% of dams; infection: 57% of herds, 45% of calves). The majority (68.1%) of calves died intrapartum. The most commonly diagnosed initiating/ultimate cause of death (UCOD) was infection (34%) of which Coxiella burnetii was the most frequently detected pathogen, by antigen. The most frequently diagnosed proximate cause of death (PCOD) was asphyxia (44.7%), though multiple PCOD was also common (21.3%). This study was the first detailed investigation of bovine PM in Switzerland. Infectious causes were diagnosed more frequently than expected. While the findings from these high PM Swiss herds may have limited external validity, the investigative model adopted and the detailed research methodologies employed can be replicated and re-evaluated, respectively, in future studies on PM internationally.