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Health, welfare and fertility implications of the use of bovine somatotropin in dairy cattle
  1. DA Whitaker,
  2. EJ Smith,
  3. JM Kelly and
  4. LS Hodgson-Jones
  1. Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, University of Edinburgh, Roslin.


Twenty-two Friesian and Friesian cross Ayrshire cows and 16 first lactation heifers were paired. Twenty were injected subcutaneously with 500 mg recombinant bovine somatotropin (sometribove) and 18 with a placebo at fortnightly intervals, starting 80 (+/- 7) days after calving, through the winter of 1986-87. The cows' weights and changes in condition, milk yields, milk solids, health and fertility were recorded regularly. Compound cake was fed at a fixed stepped rate according to the number of days since the cow calved. Silage was available on an easy-feed basis. Ten cows had their daily silage intake measured. Sometribove treated cows produced on average 27.7 kg of milk per day, 4.5 kg more than the controls. Treated heifers produced 23.5 kg per day, 2.5 kg more than the controls. Milk quality was unchanged. Treated cows gained weight during the trial, but not by as much as the controls. Control heifers also gained weight but the treated heifers lost, on average, 3 kg. Local reactions at the injection site were not felt to be of welfare concern, nor was the general effect of the extra milk production. A small number of treated animals experienced mastitis and had poorer fertility but the differences were mostly not statistically significant. If bovine somatotropin should become licensed for use in Britain it is recommended that clear guidelines should be issued on the management practices necessary for economic success and for the welfare of the treated animals.

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