Increasing serotonin concentrations alter calcium and energy metabolism in dairy cows

    1. Laura L Hernandez1
    1. 1Departments of Dairy Science
      2Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin‐Madison, 1675 Observatory Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA
      3Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, CH‐3001 Bern, Switzerland
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to L L Hernandez; Email: llhernandez{at}


    A 4×4 Latin square design in which varied doses (0, 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 mg/kg) of 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan (5-HTP, a serotonin precursor) were intravenously infused into late-lactation, non-pregnant Holstein dairy cows was used to determine the effects of serotonin on calcium and energy metabolism. Infusion periods lasted 4 days, with a 5-day washout between periods. Cows were infused at a constant rate for 1 h each day. Blood was collected pre- and 5, 10, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min post-infusion, urine was collected pre- and post-infusion, and milk was collected daily. All of the 5-HTP doses increased systemic serotonin as compared to the 0 mg/kg dose, and the 1.0 and 1.5 mg/kg doses increased circulating glucose and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and decreased beta-hydroxybutyrate (βHBA) concentrations. Treatment of cows with either 1.0 or 1.5 mg/kg 5-HTP doses decreased urine calcium elimination, and the 1.5 mg/kg dose increased milk calcium concentrations. No differences were detected in the heart rates, respiration rates, or body temperatures of the cows; however, manure scores and defecation frequency were affected. Indeed, cows that received 5-HTP defecated more, and the consistency of their manure was softer. Treatment of late-lactation dairy cows with 5-HTP improved energy metabolism, decreased loss of calcium into urine, and increased calcium secretion into milk. Further research should target the effects of increasing serotonin during the transition period to determine any benefits for post-parturient calcium and glucose metabolism.

    • Received in final form 9 May 2015
    • Accepted 13 May 2015
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