Open Veterinary Journal

Open Veterinary Journal

Peer-Reviewed Journal 
ISSN 2218-6050 (Online), ISSN 2226-4485 (Print) 

"Original Research"

Monitoring of iron deficiency in calves by determination of serum ferritin in comparison with serum iron: A preliminary study

Jessica Joerling* and Klaus Doll

Clinic for Ruminants, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Frankfurter Straße 104 – 106, 35392 Gießen, Germany


Background: Iron deficiency can cause anemia in calves and is therefore of economic importance for the cattle industry. Low iron levels are commonly caused by feeding whole milk without the addition of dietary supplements and led to the most frequent cause of anemia in calves. Other reasons for the development of anemia include congenital iron deficiency, malnutrition, bleeding ulcers or bloodsucking parasites.

Aim: This study compared laboratory parameters that are commonly used to diagnose iron deficiency anemia in calves. Additionally, serum ferritin values were compared amongst calves fed different milk meals.

Methods: For this purpose, blood samples from 40 calves were analyzed for different hematologic parameters as well as the content of copper, glutathione peroxidase, serum iron and serum ferritin.

Results: Eight calves showed decreased hemoglobin and hematocrit values and a significantly lower number of erythrocytes compared with non-anemic calves. Interestingly, 19 of 40 calves had a low serum iron. Considering their serum ferritin levels, only fourteen calves, including six calves with both low iron and low ferritin levels, were classified as iron deficient. No direct correlation between serum ferritin and serum iron was detected. Comparing milk diets, more calves fed milk replacer showed reduced levels of ferritin compared with calves fed whole milk.

Conclusion: Our data indicate that the determination of hemoglobin and serum iron is of limited suitability for the diagnosis of iron deficiency in calves. We suggest that the determination of serum ferritin should be the preferred parameter, since serum iron levels are subject to physiological fluctuation and a deficiency can be caused by inflammation or neoplastic diseases.

Keywords: Anemia, Calves, Ferritin, Iron deficiency, Serum iron.

Cite this paper:

Joerling, J. and Doll, K. 2019. Monitoring of iron deficiency in calves by determination of serum ferritin in comparison with serum iron: A preliminary study. Open Vet. J. 9(2), 177-184.