In vivo measurement of strontium absorption from the rumen of dairy cows as an index of calcium absorption capacity
Absorption of dietary calcium from the rumen is a quantitatively important process in calcium homeostasis of ruminants. In 3 separate experiments in dairy cows, we applied a technique developed in sheep to measure the rate of strontium (Sr) absorption from the rumen as an indicator of calcium absorption capacity. Absorption from the rumen after an oral dose of SrCl2 resulted in a maximum plasma concentration of Sr after 1 h, whereas absorption from the small intestine after injection of SrCl2 into the abomasum through a cannula occurred more slowly. The second experiment demonstrated that the calcium absorption capacity index of the rumen was significantly greater in 21 lactating Friesian cows (230 ± 66, mean ± SEM) than in 6 mature, nonlactating, nonpregnant heifers (101 ± 21, mean ± SEM). In a third experiment, we compared clinically normal cows at the onset of lactation with those that developed parturient paresis. In cows that developed severe hypocalcemia, plasma concentrations of 1,25(OH)2D were significantly elevated (144 ± 60 pg/mL vs. 90 ± 54 pg/mL; means ± SEM) and their rumen calcium absorption index was significantly decreased compared with that of clinically normal cows. Evidence suggested that mobilization of calcium from bone as lactation commenced was significantly depressed in paretic cows compared with those that did not show clinical signs of hypocalcemia. Moreover, ruminal stasis suppressed the absorption of calcium from the rumen. We conclude that measurement of Sr concentration in blood plasma after an oral dose of SrCl2 into the rumen can be used as an index of rumen calcium absorption capacity under different states of calcium homeostasis.