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Open Access Open Badges Brief communication

A model to estimate insulin sensitivity in dairy cows

Paul Holtenius1 and Kjell Holtenius2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU), SE-75007, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Kungsängen Research Center, Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU), SE-753 23 Uppsala, Sweden

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2007, 49:29  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-49-29

Published: 11 October 2007


Impairment of the insulin regulation of energy metabolism is considered to be an etiologic key component for metabolic disturbances. Methods for studies of insulin sensitivity thus are highly topical. There are clear indications that reduced insulin sensitivity contributes to the metabolic disturbances that occurs especially among obese lactating cows. Direct measurements of insulin sensitivity are laborious and not suitable for epidemiological studies. We have therefore adopted an indirect method originally developed for humans to estimate insulin sensitivity in dairy cows. The method, "Revised Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index" (RQUICKI) is based on plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin and free fatty acids (FFA) and it generates good and linear correlations with different estimates of insulin sensitivity in human populations. We hypothesized that the RQUICKI method could be used as an index of insulin function in lactating dairy cows. We calculated RQUICKI in 237 apparently healthy dairy cows from 20 commercial herds. All cows included were in their first 15 weeks of lactation. RQUICKI was not affected by the homeorhetic adaptations in energy metabolism that occurred during the first 15 weeks of lactation. In a cohort of 24 experimental cows fed in order to obtain different body condition at parturition RQUICKI was lower in early lactation in cows with a high body condition score suggesting disturbed insulin function in obese cows. The results indicate that RQUICKI might be used to identify lactating cows with disturbed insulin function.