Postnatal mixed respiratory-metabolic acidosis is common in calves, and depending on its severity can impair vitality or even cause death. Carbon dioxide accounts for the respiratory component and L-lactate for the metabolic component of the mixed acidosis, but it remains unclear which component determines the severity and duration of the acidosis. In a first attempt to clarify, this was investigated retrospectively in 31 calves during the first two hours of life, and in 13 calves during the first three days of life. Venous blood was collected for blood gas analysis and measurement of acid-base variables and L-lactate concentration. pH Was more strongly correlated with L-lactate concentration (r2=0.808) than with partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2, r2=0.418). Duration of parturition had a distinct effect on pH and L-lactate concentration but not on pCO2; calves born within six hours of rupture of the allantoic sac had a higher pH and lower L-lactate concentration than calves born after a longer duration of parturition (both P<0.01). Normalisation of pCO2 took four hours and normalisation of L-lactate took 48 hours. It was concluded that L-lactate is a more important factor in the pathogenesis of acidosis than pCO2, and that the duration of metabolic acidosis exceeds that of respiratory acidosis in perinatal asphyxia of calves.
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