Blood samples, taken on 6 occasions during 1 year from 172 cows resident in a dairy herd, were analysed for packed cell volume, blood glucose, haemoglobin (Hb), serum albumin, urea N, total protein, Ca, inorganic phosphate, Mg, Na and K. The data were analysed statistically, firstly with respect to date of sampling, stage of pregnancy or lactation and the interaction between stage of pregnancy or lactation and date of sampling, and secondly with milk yield as an additional factor for the data for lactating cows.
Concentrations of all constituents except inorganic phosphate and K varied significantly (P<0·001) with stage of lactation and/or pregnancy. The most significant changes in concentrations were confined to the periods up to 3 months either side of calving. The greatest changes in concentration during these periods occurred for Mg which rose during late pregnancy and for albumin which fell at or near calving. Albumin, urea and glucose were all, on average, lowest in concentration during the first month of lactation; globulin concentrations showed the reverse trend. Haemoglobin concentrations decreased during late pregnancy and early lactation and were lowest in the period 30–120 d post partum. Calcium concentrations decreased during late pregnancy and rose during early lactation. Sodium concentrations rose during late pregnancy. Interactions between dates of sampling and stages of lactation or pregnancy were significant (P<0·001) for all constituents, and most marked for glucose, urea, albumin, Hb, Ca and Na.
Haemoglobin and K concentrations fell and Mg concentrations rose with increasing milk yield, but the proportions of the total variance accounted for by differences in milk yield were small in relation to those accounted for by stage of lactation. These findings are of significance in relation to the selection of animals for sampling in the Compton Metabolic Profile Test.