Technical note: Evaluating nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining body composition in Holstein dairy calves using deuterium oxide dilution methods


Deuterium oxide (D2O) dilution methods have been used to assess body composition in live animals. Estimated body water content can be used to predict body fat and protein, and thus, the amount of energy reserves. It is an alternative method to direct chemical analysis and considered a noninvasive technique that is economical and repeatable. Deuterium oxide use is considered easy, safe, and accurate; however, the traditional methods of analyzing D2O are expensive, tedious, and time consuming. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential for using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to determine body composition in Holstein dairy heifers. Nuclear magnetic resonance is less expensive and requires minutes to calculate the percentage of D2O in the blood. This study used 24 newborn dairy heifer calves blocked by birth and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: (1) 446 g dry matter (DM) of a conventional milk replacer (MR) [CON; 20% crude protein (CP), 20% fat], (2) 669 g DM of a moderately high protein MR (MOD; 26% CP, 18% fat), or (3) 892 g DM of a moderately high protein MR (aggressive, AGG; 26% CP, 18% fat). All calves had free-choice access to starter and water. Both MR and starter were medicated with decoquinate. During weaning (d 43 to 49), the morning MR feeding ceased. On d 50, all MR feedings ended but starter and water intakes were continuously recorded until d 56. When calves were 50 d of age, a baseline blood sample was taken followed by injection of 300 mg of D2O/kg of body weight in sterile physiological saline (0.9%). The syringes containing the D2O in physiological saline were weighed before and after administration to record the actual dose of D2O injected gravimetrically. After injection, the D2O was allowed to equilibrate with body water for 1 h. Six blood samples were taken over 6 d (1/d) at 1630 h to estimate the dilution of the tracer. The plasma was aspirated and stored at −20°C until further D2O analysis. This new method was validated using 4 calf plasma samples that were sent to an outside laboratory for measurement using an independent validation method. We detected no differences in total body water, protein, fat, or mineral content in calves fed CON, MOD, or AGG; however, results demonstrated that the D2O dilution technique and analysis by NMR is an appropriate and easy method to estimate water, protein, ash, and fat in young heifers.


Biological Sciences

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Journal of Dairy Science



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