, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 127-139

Measurement of Cortisol Metabolites in Faeces of Ruminants

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Twenty-one metabolites were detected in faecal samples collected after infusion of (14C)cortisol into the jugular vein of sheep, using high-performance liquid chromatography/radiometric analysis plus mass spectrometry. One group of metabolites had molecular weights of between 302 and 308, and another group of 350, which indicates that the substances have a C19O3 or a C21O4 structure. Therefore, an enzyme immunoassay against 5β-androstane-3α-o1-11,17-dione-17-CMO:BSA was established. Faecal samples were collected from 10 cows immediately after transport and then during a course in which non-invasive diagnostic procedures were being taught (course 1). For comparison, faeces were sampled from another 5 cows that were being used for teaching invasive procedures (course 2). Six cows from a university farm served as controls. In the animals used in course 1, the highest concentrations of cortisol metabolites were measured immediately after transport to the university (median value: 2.2 μmol/kg faeces). During the first 5 days at the university, the concentrations decreased to 0.52 μmol/kg (median) and remained at this level during the rest of the course. The median concentration in the samples that were taken during course 2 (collected about 2 months after transport) was 0.48 μmol/kg. There was no significant difference in the excretion of cortisol metabolites between these cows and the controls. We conclude from these data that, using the enzyme immunoassay against 5β-androstane-3α-o1-11,17-dione-17-CMO, we were able to detect transport/novel environment stress but not the potential disturbance that cows experience during diagnostic procedures.