Serum amylase activity and calcium and magnesium concentrations in young cattle grazing fescue and Bermuda grass pastures

David F. Nutting From the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine (Nutting, Toth, Ballard), Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Tolley) and of Comparative Medicine (Toth), College of Graduate Health Sciences, and the College of Dentistry (Ballard), The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN 38163; and the South Central Family Farm Research Center (Brown), USDA/ARS, Booneville, AR 72927-9214.

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Elizabeth A. Tolley From the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine (Nutting, Toth, Ballard), Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Tolley) and of Comparative Medicine (Toth), College of Graduate Health Sciences, and the College of Dentistry (Ballard), The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN 38163; and the South Central Family Farm Research Center (Brown), USDA/ARS, Booneville, AR 72927-9214.

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Linda A. Toth From the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine (Nutting, Toth, Ballard), Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Tolley) and of Comparative Medicine (Toth), College of Graduate Health Sciences, and the College of Dentistry (Ballard), The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN 38163; and the South Central Family Farm Research Center (Brown), USDA/ARS, Booneville, AR 72927-9214.

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Steve D. Ballard From the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine (Nutting, Toth, Ballard), Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Tolley) and of Comparative Medicine (Toth), College of Graduate Health Sciences, and the College of Dentistry (Ballard), The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN 38163; and the South Central Family Farm Research Center (Brown), USDA/ARS, Booneville, AR 72927-9214.

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Michael A. Brown From the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine (Nutting, Toth, Ballard), Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Tolley) and of Comparative Medicine (Toth), College of Graduate Health Sciences, and the College of Dentistry (Ballard), The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN 38163; and the South Central Family Farm Research Center (Brown), USDA/ARS, Booneville, AR 72927-9214.

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Summary

The study reported here was part of a long-term investigation of the effects of genotype on growth, reproduction, and metabolism in cattle grazing common Bermuda grass and endophyte-infected fescue pastures. In June 1990, blood samples were collected from the tail vein of yearling heifers and steers (Angus [aa], Brahman [bb], and their reciprocal crosses [ab, ba], n = 97). Serum amylase activity was assayed enzymatically; serum Ca and Mg concentrations were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The effects of endophyte-infected fescue depended on genotype (P < 0.001). In yearlings having at least 1 Angus parent (aa, ab, ba), grazing endophyte-infected fescue was associated with higher serum amylase activity than was grazing Bermuda grass. But serum amylase activities of bb yearlings consuming either forage were similar. Moreover, for either forage, substantial differences were related to genotype (P < 0.007) and gender (P < 0.05). Angus yearlings had higher serum amy-lase activity than did Brahman yearlings; ab and ba yearlings had intermediate values. Heifers had higher amylase activity than did steers. The relationship among serum values of amylase, Ca, and Mg depended on forage. Yearlings consuming endophyte-infected fescue and hav-ing at least 1 Angus parent had a moderate negative correlation between serum amylase activity and Ca concentration (r = —0.53; P < 0.0005); that is, in calves of genotypes with increased amylase activity while consuming endophyte-infected fescue (aa, ab, ba), the higher the amylase activity, the lower the serum Ca concentration. However, in yearlings consuming Bermuda grass, serum amylase and Ca values were not correlated. Conversely, grazing Bermuda grass was associated with moderate positive correlation between Ca and Mg concentrations (r = 0.46; P < 0.0003), but in yearlings grazing endophyte-infected fescue, Ca and Mg concentrations were independent. The cause, pathophysiologic mechanism, and clinical importance of these effects remain to be determined. In conclusion, serum amylase activity in yearling cattle was influenced by genotype, gender, and consumption of endophyte-infected fescue. We speculate that yearlings having at least 1 Angus parent may develop a persistent subclinical derangement of the exocrine portion of the pancreas when exposed to common environmental toxins associated with endophyte-infected fescue grass, and that purebred Brahman yearlings can resist this aspect of fescue toxicosis.

Summary

The study reported here was part of a long-term investigation of the effects of genotype on growth, reproduction, and metabolism in cattle grazing common Bermuda grass and endophyte-infected fescue pastures. In June 1990, blood samples were collected from the tail vein of yearling heifers and steers (Angus [aa], Brahman [bb], and their reciprocal crosses [ab, ba], n = 97). Serum amylase activity was assayed enzymatically; serum Ca and Mg concentrations were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The effects of endophyte-infected fescue depended on genotype (P < 0.001). In yearlings having at least 1 Angus parent (aa, ab, ba), grazing endophyte-infected fescue was associated with higher serum amylase activity than was grazing Bermuda grass. But serum amylase activities of bb yearlings consuming either forage were similar. Moreover, for either forage, substantial differences were related to genotype (P < 0.007) and gender (P < 0.05). Angus yearlings had higher serum amy-lase activity than did Brahman yearlings; ab and ba yearlings had intermediate values. Heifers had higher amylase activity than did steers. The relationship among serum values of amylase, Ca, and Mg depended on forage. Yearlings consuming endophyte-infected fescue and hav-ing at least 1 Angus parent had a moderate negative correlation between serum amylase activity and Ca concentration (r = —0.53; P < 0.0005); that is, in calves of genotypes with increased amylase activity while consuming endophyte-infected fescue (aa, ab, ba), the higher the amylase activity, the lower the serum Ca concentration. However, in yearlings consuming Bermuda grass, serum amylase and Ca values were not correlated. Conversely, grazing Bermuda grass was associated with moderate positive correlation between Ca and Mg concentrations (r = 0.46; P < 0.0003), but in yearlings grazing endophyte-infected fescue, Ca and Mg concentrations were independent. The cause, pathophysiologic mechanism, and clinical importance of these effects remain to be determined. In conclusion, serum amylase activity in yearling cattle was influenced by genotype, gender, and consumption of endophyte-infected fescue. We speculate that yearlings having at least 1 Angus parent may develop a persistent subclinical derangement of the exocrine portion of the pancreas when exposed to common environmental toxins associated with endophyte-infected fescue grass, and that purebred Brahman yearlings can resist this aspect of fescue toxicosis.

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