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Influence of altitude on vitamin D and bone metabolism of lactating sheep and goats

Kohler, M.; Leiber, F.; Willems, H.; Merbold, L. and Liesegang, A. (2013) Influence of altitude on vitamin D and bone metabolism of lactating sheep and goats. Journal of Animal Science, 91, pp. 5259-5268.

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Document available online at: http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/91/11/5259


This study investigated the influence of alpine grazing on vitamin D (vitD) and bone metabolism in sheep and goats. Two groups of five adult lactating East Friesian milk sheep and Saanen dairy goats were kept on pastures at 2000 to 2600 m a.s.l. (SA: sheep alpine; GA: goats alpine) and 400 m a.s.l. (SL: sheep lowland; GL: goats lowland). The animals were milked twice daily and the milk yield was measured. Blood, milk, skin and forage samples were collected and the left metatarsi were measured with peripheral quantitative computed tomography. The relative humidity and air temperature were recorded and the ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation was measured with a solar meter at both research stations. In addition, animals from the alpine group were equipped with a global positioning system receiver. The UVB radiation was higher at the alpine station (P < 0.05) compared to the lowland station. In contrast, both the relative humidity and the air temperature were higher at the lowland station (P < 0.04). The group GA produced more milk than GL (P < 0.043). No differences in milk production between SA and SL were detected. Only minor differences between the alpine and lowland species groups were found in the total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) and 1.25-dihydroxyvitamin D serum concentration and in the 25(OH)D milk concentration. 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 concentration in serum was higher in sheep compared to goats and the 25(OH)D3 concentration in serum increased in all four groups but was higher in the alpine groups during the experiment. In addition, no differences in 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) concentrations in the skin at high altitude and lowland groups were detectable. However the 7-DHC concentrations in the skin of sheep were less than a tenth of the concentrations in the skin of goats and were nearly not detectable. In both groups SA and SL bone strength index increased during the trial (P = 0.043). Bone strength index was lower in GA compared to GL at week 12 (P = 0.047). Mean serum Ca concentrations were higher and P concentrations were lower in the alpine groups than in the lowland groups (P = 0.047). In both groups SA and GA the distance travelled increased during the trial. In conclusion, no effect of altitude on vitD status, vitD milk concentration and bone strength could be detected. Both sheep and goats are able to produce vitD in the skin, but sheep depend more on vitD intake with feedstuff, whereas goats rely more on cutaneous vitD production.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:bone, lactation, mountain pasture, small ruminant, ultraviolet radiation, Milchziegen, Schafe, vitamin D, Tierforschung, Tierernährung
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Sheep and goats
Research affiliation: Switzerland > ETHZ - Agrarwissenschaften
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal > Animal welfare & housing
Switzerland > Zürich University
Switzerland > Other organizations
Deposited By: Leiber, Dr. Florian
ID Code:24491
Deposited On:31 Oct 2013 12:42
Last Modified:28 Jul 2021 14:17
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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