A University of Wisconsin researcher is reviewing information on serotonin in effort to improve maintenance of normal calcium levels in dairy cows post-partum and avoid milk fever.
Milk fever, caused by low calcium levels, can cause muscle tremors and immobility, says Laura Hernandez of the UW Department of Dairy Science.
Hernandez says her group has a new area of research, serotonin.
"We're looking to develop this in a way to feed cows before they give birth so that they don't have this rapid drop in calcium and get the tremors, get cold and go down," she says.
Based on what the researchers have seen so far, Hernandez says, serotonin is going to increase calcium liberation from the bone stores.
"The bone of the cow or any mammal will store the most amount of calcium that the cow or animal has in order to make sure there's enough calcium for mom and enough calcium for the milk for the baby," Hernandez says. "So we're trying to manipulate this system so that cows can pull calcium from their bone in a better fashion so that they can keep their calcium levels normal while making enough for the milk as well."
Hernandez says she hopes the research will turn into reality within the next five to seven years.
"We're doing the real down and dirty physiology right now and we're getting the work patented and so hopefully if things keep going as we see them going, we can get a company involved and take it to the next level," she says.
Hernandez explains the end product will likely be serotonin or 5-Hydroxytryptophan. If fed, the product will have a shield of sorts that will carry it to the rumen before it can be used, she says.