Modeling reticular and ventral ruminal pH of lactating dairy cows using ingestion and rumination behavior
The prevention and control of metabolic and digestive diseases is an enormous challenge in dairy farming. Subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) is assumed to be the most severe feed-related disorder and it impairs both animal health and economic efficiency. Currently, ruminal pH as well as variables derived from the daily pH curve are the main indicators for SARA. The objective of this study was to explain the daily pH course in the ventral rumen and reticulum of dairy cows using ingestion pattern and rumination behavior data gathered by automated data recording systems. The data of 13 ruminally fistulated lactating cows were collected at the experimental station of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Brunswick, Germany). The data included continuous pH measurements, which were recorded simultaneously in the reticulum by pH-measuring boluses and in the ventral rumen by a separate data logger. In addition, rumination behavior was measured using jaw movement sensors, and feed and water intakes were recorded by transponder-assisted systems. Milk yield and body weight were determined during and after each milking, respectively. For statistical evaluation, the data were analyzed using time-series modeling with multiple linear mixed regressions. Before applying the developed mathematical statistical modeling, we performed a plausibility assessment to ensure data quality. The major part of the mathematical statistical modeling consisted of data preparation, where all variables were transformed into a uniform 1-min resolution. Signal transformations were used to model individual feed and water intakes as well as rumination behavior events over time. Our results indicated that diurnal pH curves of both the reticulum and ventral rumen could be predicted by the transformed feed and water intake rates. Rumination events were associated with a marginal temporal increase in pH. We observed that the pH of the ventral rumen was delayed by approximately 37 min compared with that of the reticulum, which was therefore considered in the modeling. With the models developed in this study, 67.0% of the variance of the reticular pH curves and 37.8% of the variance of the ruminal pH curves could be explained by fixed effects. We deduced that the diurnal pH course is, to a large extent, associated with the animal's individual feed intake and rumination behavior.