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Alternative rib bone biopsy measurements to estimate changes in skeletal mineral reserves in cattle

  • R. M. Dixon (a1), D. B. Coates (a2), R. J. Mayer (a3) and C. P. Miller (a4)


Rib bone biopsy samples are often used to estimate changes in skeletal mineral reserves in cattle but differences in sampling procedures and the bone measurements reported often make interpretation and comparisons among experiments difficult. ‘Full-core’ rib bone biopsy samples, which included the external cortical bone, internal cortical bone and trabecular bone (CBext, CBint and Trab, respectively), were obtained from cattle known to be in phosphorus (P) adequate (Padeq) or severely P-deficient (Pdefic) status. Experiments 1 and 2 examined growing steers and Experiment 3 mature breeder cows. The thickness of cortical bone, specific gravity (SG), and the amount and concentration of ash and P per unit fresh bone volume, differed among CBext, CBint and Trab bone. P concentration (mg/cc) was closely correlated with both SG and ash concentrations (pooled data, r=0.99). Thickness of external cortical bone (CBText) was correlated with full-core P concentration (FC-Pconc) (pooled data, r=0.87). However, an index, the amount of P in CBext per unit surface area of CBext (PSACB; mg P/mm2), was more closely correlated with the FC-Pconc (pooled data, FC-Pconc=37.0+146×PSACB; n=42, r=0.94, RSD=7.7). Results for measured or estimated FC-Pconc in 10 published studies with cattle in various physiological states and expected to be Padeq or in various degrees of Pdefic status were collated and the ranges of FC-Pconc indicative of P adequacy and P deficiency for various classes of cattle were evaluated. FC-Pconc was generally in the range 130 to 170 and 100 to 120 mg/cc fresh bone in Padeq mature cows and young growing cattle, respectively. In conclusion, the FC-Pconc could be estimated accurately from biopsy samples of CBext. This allows comparisons between studies where full-core or only CBext biopsy samples of rib bone have been obtained to estimate changes in the skeletal P status of cattle and facilitates evaluation of the P status of cattle.


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Present address: 35 Dunbil Avenue, Ferny Hills, Brisbane, QLD 4055, Australia.


Present address: 8 Haines Close, Woolgoolga, NSW 2456, Australia.



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