Animal scientists have made tremendous progress and put their best efforts, during the last 50 years, in regard to selecting dairy cows for high milk yield and in designing the best rations for high milk production.
Moreover, dairy cow health scientists have persistently studied health issues and offered the best solutions to numerous transition cow diseases.
Indeed, one dairy cow today produces an amount of milk that is equal to six cows 50 years ago.
This is an accomplishment of both geneticists and animal nutritionist that deserve to be credited.
However, there is still one grey area that both animal and health scientists have not been able to solve, the reason for the high incidence of periparturient diseases and the high cull rates.
Indeed, despite much research work and progress made with regard to cow health, there are still various health concerns that continue to affect dairy cows, which cost the dairy industry billions of dollars in economic losses on a yearly basis.
The number of cull cows is increasing and so has the incidence of several diseases including uterine infections and infertility, mastitis, laminitis, ketosis, and retained placenta.
This has raised questions whether the approach, the philosophy, or the scientific methodology that we have been using to address diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of transition cow diseases is appropriate. Study of metabolic molecules in a whole new perspective is the prime task to redefine dairy animal diseases.
The metabolome represents the collection of all metabolites in a biological cell, tissue, organ, or organism, which are the end products of cellular processes.
Metabolomics is the science that studies all chemical processes involving metabolites. More specifically, metabolomics is the study of chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes establish during their activity; it is the study of all small-molecule metabolite profiles.
There is a broad discussion among scientists in biological and medical sciences that suggests that the reductionist philosophy that has led biological sciences and medicine for centuries has failed to find optimal solutions to the many unresolved health issues of humans and animals.
We are still considering single organs as the “system” to study, subsequently inferring the connection with the rest of the organism based on the existing literature.
The physiologic and metabolic complexity of these diseases unavoidably requires a systems biology approach, i.e., a way to systematically study the complex interactions in the cow using a method of integration instead of reduction.
A new philosophy, known as systems biology approach, is emerging that has been embraced by various leading groups in the world that seems very promising and that proposes to look at the animal as a whole and the disease as a complex interaction among genotype, phenotype, and environment.
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