Preliminary investigation of some physiological responses ofBos indicusheifers to surgical spaying

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To determine the value of peripheral blood concentrations of cortisol, creatine phosphokinase (CPK), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) and haptoglobin as indicators of welfare in Brahman heifers spayed by either the Willis dropped ovary technique (WDOT) or the flank laparotomy method.


A total of 24, 2-year-old Brahman heifers were allocated to: crush (head-bail) restraint alone (Control, n = 5); crush restraint and ear-punch (Ear-punch, n = 5); crush restraint, WDOT spay and ear-punch (WDOT, n = 9); or crush restraint, elecrtoimmobilisation, flank spay and ear-punch (Flank; n = 5). Cattle were blood sampled frequently to 8 h, and then daily to day 4 and were monitored to 42 days post-procedure. Peripheral blood concentrations of bound and unbound cortisol, CPK, AST, NEFAs and haptoglobin were determined.


Concentrations of plasma bound cortisol peaked in the spayed heifers 3–4 h post-procedure; values in the Flank (1603 nmol/L) and WDOT (1290 nmol/L) groups were similar and significantly greater (P < 0.05) than in the Controls (519 nmol/L). Flank heifers had elevated plasma haptoglobin levels to day 4 postprocedure. Liveweights were significantly lower in the spayed compared with the Control heifers at 21 and 42 days post-procedure, with liveweight gains also significantly reduced at day 21.


Bound cortisol responses in spayed heifers were elevated to 6 h post-procedure and similar in WDOT- and flank-spayed animals, indicating comparable levels of pain and stress. An inflammatory response, indicated by haptoglobin concentrations, was sustained for longer in Flank than in WDOT spayed heifers, suggesting longer-lasting adverse effects on welfare from flank spaying than WDOT spaying.

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