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Research Research teams HAS–SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group

HAS–SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group

RESEARCH GROUP LEADER: Dr. Ottó Szenci DSc, Dipl. ECBHM, professor, Doctor of Hungarian Academy of Sciences

CONTACT: [Click to see email]


Professor: Dr. Ottó Szenci

Assistant professors: Dr. Orsolya Kutasi, Dr. András Horváth, Dr. Boglárka Vincze

Veterinarians (PhD student): Dr. Zsófia Bohák, Dr. Kinga Joó, Dr. Lea Lénárt, Dr. Zoltán Szelényi

Animal breeder engineer (PhD student): Luca, Fruzsina Kézér

Agricultural engineers: Levente Kovács, Mátyás Pálffy

Food engineer: Bernadett Kelemen


Analysis of stress in the last stages of pregnancy, during calving, involution, and milk production in dairy cows. Characteristics of uterine contractility and impact assessment of some uterotonics on bovine puerperal period. Examination of bacterial origin of clinical endometritis, in particular Haemophilus somnus and herpesvirus (BHV) 4. Increase the level of equine training and load capacity.


Hungarian Association for Buiatrics

World Association for Buiatrics

The Hungarian Society for Animal Reproduction

Hungarian Association of Equine Practitioners

European College of Bovine Health Management

European College of Porcine Health Management

Federation of European Equine Veterinary Association



Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Hungary

Kaposvár University, Faculty of Animal Science, Hungary

University of West Hungary

University of Liége, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Liege, Belgium

Utrecht University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht, the Netherlands

University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

Washington State University, Pullman, USA



cattle, small ruminants, swine and horse health analysis

development of analysis to reduce livestock production losses

development of diagnostic tests for large animals (colour Doppler ultrasound, endoscope)

sport physiology medical examination in equines


Funding source Project title and topic (date) Amount (HUF)
OTKA Research Scholarship of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office Evaluation of the physiological relations of calving assistance to improve vitality of newborn calves and to reduce parturition-associated pain in the dam and in the offspring 15.600.000
NTP-NFTÖ project by the Human Capacities Grant Management Office and the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities Monitoring the peripartal period in dairy cattle to predict dystocic calving events 850.000
János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Studying the effect of coping style and calving assistance on autonomic nervous system activity, hormonal and behavioural responses of postpartum cows and their calves 4.320.000


Agricultural production and sales companies: Cattle and pig farms

MTA-SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group
H-2225 Üllő – Dóra major
Tel: (36) 29-521-301
Fax: (36) 29-521-383
E-mail: [Click to see email]


In 2017, the bovine research subgroup of the MTA-SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group has evaluated the clinical and physiological concerns of dystocic and eutocic parturition in adult cows and in newborn calves.

We assessed the changes of rumination time, reticuloruminal pH and temperature of dairy cows and heifers with eutocic (n = 10) and dystocic calving (n = 8). The recording period lasted from 3 d before calving until 7 days in milk (1).

We concluded that continuous monitoring of changes in rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature are promising approaches in the early detection of cows with a higher risk of dystocia. Depressed rumination activity of dystocic dams after calving highlighted the importance of the postpartum monitoring of cows experiencing difficulties at calving. The effect of dystocia on postpartum reticuloruminal pH was not pronounced.

Although prepartum drops found in reticuloruminal temperature and rumination time underscored the promising value of this parameter in the early detection of dystocia, we are planning further studies on the various effects of obstetrical conditions on rumination time and reticuloruminal characteristics by considering the severity of dystocia as well.

In our opinion, for the better understanding of the effect of dystocia on rumination time, reticuloruminal pH and temperature, there still is a need to explore physiological mechanisms associated with peripartal rumination patterns.

We also investigated the effect of seasonal and maternal-related variables on blood-gas, acid-base and L-lactate status in 172 newborn calves during the first 24 h of life (2). We found that season (summer vs. winter), the duration of calving and the body weight of the newborn had a significant effect on most of the blood parameters. We concluded that these factors should be considered when using blood-gas and acid-base parameters to assess neonatal vitality in dairy calves. The duration of licking the calf was found to be a prominent factor in the thermal and metabolic adaptation of newborn calves to extrauterine life. The severity of postnatal acidosis was affected by the duration of the delivery process and maternal grooming, both of which should be considered to have both animal welfare and technological implications. The role of physiological factors in the seemingly higher vitality of newborn calves in winter will be studied by our researcher team in the near future as it may have clinical and welfare implications as well.

During the spring of 2018, we finished our long-term study that evaluated the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on newborn calf vitality and overall welfare. Animals were examined during the first 48 h of life. As non-invasive indicators of bovine well-being, we recorded the heart rate, the autonomic nervous system-related parameters of heart rate variability and we collected saliva samples for the assessment of cortisol concentrations. Blood parameters of acid-gas homeostasis, variables related to lying/standing behaviours and vitality scores were also investigated as well as factors related to the dam (maternal grooming, attitude to the offspring, parity, body condition, age, health and production data). Data are under evaluation and are prepared for statistical analysis and publication. Based on our preliminary results, a promising strategy to improve newborn calf vitality could be the administration of NSAIDs for the alleviation of dystocia-related pain. Since there is a need to verify the benefits of NSAIDs before treating dystocic calves can be widely recommended we plan to publish our results before December 2018 in four different papers dealing with four different messages of our investigation.

During 2017, we have published two papers, one on the cardiac autonomic adaptation of cows to an automatic milking system (3) and another on the physical effects on the basal heart rate variability parameters in dairy cattle (4).

We have continued to examine the developing bovine foetus and newborn calves: Although some studies have shown that foetal aortic diameter strongly correlates with birth weight in near-term horses and cattle, however, we were not able to find any correlation between foetal aortic diameter and birth weight in Holstein-Friesian cows and heifers irrespective of whether the foetus was born alive or dead (5). According to our radiographic results, clear lung fields, improvement in lung expansion, air content of the lung and absence of lung opacification occurred within 24 hr of birth (6). It was found that the ventral lung quadrant showed an improvement in radiographic opacification and lung expansion earlier than the dorsal lung regions. The findings of this study support the potential role of thoracic radiography in the assessment of pulmonary fluid clearance and lung aeration in newborn calves (6).

We have continued our national and international research co-operation with
the Department of Endocrine Neurobiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary (7), the College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China (8) and the Department of Pathophysiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia (9).

The equine research subgroup has used serum and salivary cortisol measurements and HRV analysis to compare stress responses to different kind of stressors. It was demonstrated that temperament has an effect on the cortisol response to a single bout of exercise in racehorses. Twenty healthy Thoroughbred horses were selected for the study based on a 25-item rating questionnaire survey used for characterising equine temperament. Eight temperamental and twelve calm horses took part in the experiment. The horses trotted as a warm-up activity, and then galloped on a rounded sand track. Blood sampling was conducted four times for each horse. Horses with a more excitable temperament showed a higher cortisol response to the test (P = 0.036). Serum cortisol may be a relevant marker to quantify individual temperamental differences in racehorses (10). We also published on the nutritional cause of an extensive ulcerative stomatitis outbreak which resulted in quarantine restrictions of the largest racecourse in Hungary. Movement of 323 horses was restricted at a Hungarian racetrack because of suspected vesicular stomatitis (VS) outbreak. Competition horses showed signs of depression, decreased appetite, drooling and ulceration of the lips, tongues and gingiva even after a short three-four hours exposure of the tested hay. Since many horses were affected simultaneously, infectious disease or common offending source was suspected. To prove nutritional origin, a botanical examination and a food provocation test was carried out. Botanical analysis established the presence of more than 15% of foxtail grass (Setraia viridis) in the forage. We have concluded that evaluation of the feed in case of a stomatitis outbreak should be immediately performed. We have highlighted the possibility that the extent to which foxtail grass contamination of hay causes ulcerative gingivitis may be increasing because of recent change in climate (11).

The expected IF for our research group for 2017 was 21.079.

Most important published references:

  1. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Ruff F, Szenci O: Rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature as possible predictors of dystocia in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci., 100:1568-1579 (2017) Expected IF: 2.474
  2. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Albert E, Ruff F, Szenci O: Seasonal and maternal effects on acid-base, lactate, electrolyte and hematological status of 205 dairy calves born to eutocic dams. Dairy Sci., 100:7534–7543 (2017) Expected IF: 2.474
  3. Jurkovich V, Kézér FL, Ruff F, Bakony M, Kulcsár M, Kovács, L: Heart rate, heart rate variability, faecal glucocorticoid metabolites and avoidance response of dairy cows before and after changeover to an automatic milking system. Acta Veterinaria Hungarica, 65: pp. 301–313. (2017) Expected IF: 0.814
  4. Kézér FL, Tőzsér J, Bakony M, Szenci O, Jurkovich V, Kovács L: Effect of physical activity on cardiac autonomic function of dairy cows on commercial dairy farms. J. Dairy Res., 84:395-400 (2017) Expected IF: 409
  5. Vincze B, Gáspárdy A, Kovács L, Albert E, Kézér L, Baska F, Szenci O: Applicability of fetal thoracic aortic diameter measurement in the prediction of birth weight in Holstein-Friesian cows. Acta Vet Hung. 65:(1) pp. 60-65. (2017) Expected IF: 0.814
  6. Abdelmegeid KM, Kutasi O, Nassiff NM, Wirth K, Bódai E, Hafez MA, Szenci O: Radiographic assessment of pulmonary fluid clearance and lung aeration in newborn calves delivered by elective Caesarean section. Reprod. Dom. Anim., DOI: 10.1111/rda.12998 (2017). Expected IF: 1.4
  7. Péterfi Z, Farkas E, Nagyunyomi-Sényi K, Kádár A, Szenci O, Horváth A, Füzesi T, Lechan MR, Fekete Cs: Role of TRH/UCN3 neurons of the perifornical area/bed nucleus of stria terminalis region in the regulation of the anorexigenic POMC neurons of the arcuate nucleus in male mice and rats. Brain Structure & Function, doi: 10.1007/s00429-017-1553-5 (2017) Expected IF: 4.698
  8. Liu G, Yin J, Barkema HW, Chen L, Shahid M, Szenci O, De Buck J, Kastelic JP, Han B: Development of a single-dose recombinant CAMP factor entrapping poly(lactide-co-glycolide) microspheres-based vaccine against Streptococcus agalactiae. Vaccine, 35:1246-1253 (2017) Expected IF: 3.235
  9. Šuluburić A, Milanović S, Vranješ-Đurić S, Jovanović BI, Barna T, Stojić M, Fratrić N, Szenci O, Gvozdić D: Progesterone concentration and pregnancy rate in Simmental dairy cows after oestrus synchronization and hCG treatment during early luteal phase. Acta Vet Hung.65:(3) pp. 446-458. (2017) Expected IF: 0.814
  10. Kutasi O, Andrasofszky E, Szenci O, Bersenyi A, Siller I, Abonyi T: Foxtail grass (Setaria viridis)-induced ulcerative stomatitis-gingivitis resembling viral vesicular stomatitis in horses. Livestock science (2017) Expected IF: 1.377
  11. Bohák Zs, Szenci O, Harnos A, Kutasi O, Kovács L: Effect of temperament on cortisol response to a single exercise bout in Thoroughbred racehorses – short communication. Acta Vet Hung. 65:(4) pp. 541-545. (2017) Expected IF: 0.814



In 2016, the bovine research subgroup of the MTA-SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group has evaluated behavioural, physiological and clinical concerns of parturition.

In our recent study, we found that calving per vias naturales is associated with immediate changes in the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system in the peripartal period (paper cited in our scientific report in 2015) suggesting that heart rate variability (HRV) is a better predictor of the immediate calving than calving restlessness in cows with spontaneous calving. In 2016, we published fundamental data on the circadian rhythms of HRV parameters based on observations on 117 pregnant cows. We found the existence of a diurnal periodicity in the cardiovascular functions in summer and seasonal differences for both daytime and nighttime in heart rate and HRV in time-, frequency- and non-linear domains as well (1). As the main finding of our study, we showed that cardiac autonomic activity has a significant diurnal rhythm in summer. Based on our results, the significant circadian variation in HRV was considered in our further studies.

Our continuous and extensive research on periparturient cows provided several new scientific results in the last year. We investigated stress and early maternal behavior in 79 cows with appropriately timed and premature obstetrical assistance at calving. Our results proved that calving with appropriately timed assistance caused no serious impairment in cow welfare during parturition and in the first 48 h after calving. However, premature obstetrical assistance caused high stress load for animals during parturition, prolonged postpartum autonomic nervous system recovery, decreased cardiac vagal tone and depressed maternal behavior (2). We also evaluated how maternal factors (body condition, parity, time spent with licking the calf), the technology of calving (group or individual calving) or the timing of obstetrical assistance affect the progress and the outcomes of calving (3). We found that calving in a group has benefits over individual calving in terms of parturition progress, calving ease and postpartum health of the dam. Premature timing of calving assistance was associated with a high prevalence of severe dystocia and reduced vitality of the offspring, caused a prolonged calving process and had a negative impact on postpartum health of the dam.

Besides our experiments on bovine parturition, we evaluated plasma and saliva cortisol and HRV parameters in response to transrectal examination in non-lactating cows with different behavioral reactivity (4). Our results demonstrated that temperamental animals exhibit increased plasma and salivary cortisol levels and higher cardiac autonomic responsiveness to rectal palpation than calmer ones. We concluded that salivary cortisol may substitute for plasma cortisol when assessing response of cattle to stress.

In our recent study, we found that rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature are good predictors of dystocia (5). Our study has shown the effects of dystocia on rumination activity around calving. We found prepartum drops in reticuloruminal temperature that underscore the promising value of this parameter in the early detection of dystocia. We concluded that for a better understanding of the effect of dystocia on rumination time, reticuloruminal pH and temperature, there still is a need to explore physiological mechanisms associated with peripartal rumination patterns.

Key words: cow, circadian rhythm of heart rate variability, calving, cardiac vagal tone (non-invasive stress parameter), progress of calving, postpartum health, newborn calf vitality, timing of obstetrical assistance, behavioural reactivity, plasma cortisol, saliva cortisol.

Regarding the planned heart rate variability (HRV) analysis tests in horses, the equine group have performed a preliminary study comparing HRV of pleasure and racehorses and our results were presented in a diploma work. We have continued our research about the dynamic upper airway dysfunctions causing poor performance in the equine athlete and we have demonstrated the importance of defining aetiology of upper respiratory functional disease regarding dorsal displacement of the soft palate and laryngeal dysfunctions. We have also proved that the electronic impedance tomography is a suitable method for the evaluating ventilation in horses (9). In the West Nile research we have published our results about the evaluation of multivariate syndromic surveillance, which combines different syndromic data sources available. We have concluded that it gives better results for outbreak detection in terms of specificity and sensitivity than univariate methods alone (10). We have defined the restricting factors that should be taken into consideration during the evaluation of WNV infection by hemagglutination inhibition test. We compared our results with capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) taking plaque reduction neutralisation test as a gold standard, and we found that ELISA is more reliable for the detection of WNV antibodies. We could detect IgM both after a recent infection and post vaccination with ELISA, therefore we conclude that it is not possible to differentiate infected from recently vaccinated horses by using IGM ELISA (11).

Most important published references:

Bovine group:

  1. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Ruff, F, Szenci O: Cardiac autonomic activity has a circadian rhythm in summer but not in winter in non-lactating pregnant dairy cows. Physiology and Behavior 2016. 155. 56-65. Expected IF: 2.461
  2. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Ruff F, Szenci O: Timing of obstetrical assistance affects peripartal cardiac autonomic function and early maternal behavior of dairy cows. Physiology and Behavior 2016. 165. 202–210. Expected IF: 2.461
  3. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Szenci O: Effect of calving process on the outcomes of delivery and postpartum health of dairy cows with unassisted and assisted calvings. J. Dairy Sci. 2016. 99. 7568–7573. Expected IF: 2.408
  4. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Kulcsár-Huszenicza M, Ruff F, Szenci O, Jurkovich V: Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal and cardiac autonomic responses to transrectal examination differ with behavioral reactivity in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 2016. 99. 7444–7457. Expected IF: 2.408
  5. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Ruff F, Szenci O: Rumination time and reticuloruminal temperature as possible predictors of dystocia in dairy cows, J. Dairy Sci. 2017. 100. 1568-1579. Expected IF: 2.408
  6. Wang D, Zhang L, Zhou X, He Y, Yong C, Shen M, Szenci O, Han B: Antimicrobial susceptibility, virulence genes, and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA analysis of Staphylococcus aureus recovered from bovine mastitis in Ningxia, China. J. Dairy Sci. 2016. 99. 9560-9569. Expected IF: 2.408
  7. Szenci O, Sassi G, Fodor L, Molnár L, Szelényi Z, Tibold J, Mádl I, Egyed L: Co-infection with bovine Herpesvirus 4 and Histophilus somni significantly extends the service period in dairy cattle with purulent vaginal discharge. Reprod. Dom. Anim. 2016. 51. 143-149. Expected IF: 1.210
  8. Német Z, Albert E, Nagy K, Csuka E, Dán Á, Szenci O, Hermans K, Balka Gy, Biksi I: Virulence type and tissue tropism of Staphylococcus strains originating from Hungarian rabbit farms. Vet. Microbiol. 2016. 193. 1-6. Expected IF: 2.564

Equine group:

  1. Ambrisko TD, Schramel JP, Adler A, Kutasi O, Makra Z, Moens YPS: Assessment of distribution of ventilation by electrical impedance tomography in standing horses. Physiological Measurement 2016. 37. 175-186. Expected IF: 1.576
  2. Joó K, Bakonyi T, Szenci O, Sárdi S, Ferenczi E, Barna M, Malik P, Hubalek Z, Fehér O, Kutasi O: Comparison of assays for the detection of West Nile virus antibodies in equine serum after natural infection or vaccination. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 2017. 183. 1-6. Expected IF: 1.664
  3. Faverjon C, Andersson MG, Decors A, Tapprest J, Tritz P, Sandoz A, Kutasi O, Sala C, Leblond A: Evaluation of a multivariate syndromic surveillance system for West Nile virus. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2016. 16. 382-390. Expected IF: 1.956


In 2015, the bovine research subgroup of the MTA-SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group has evaluated behavioural, physiological and clinical concerns of parturition. We aimed to predict the time of the approaching calving in cases of spontaneous calvings by using cardiac vagal tone as a non-invasive stress parameter. We have monitored 20 calvings and we found that changes in vagal tone occur earlier than the onset of calving restlessness (the first behavioural signs of calving). We published our new scientific findings in Physiology and Behavior (1). Several results of our earlier investigations have been published in 2015. We have reported on the cardiovascular and behavioural concerns of conventional milking process in lactating dairy cows (2). Our research group is the first, which assessed chronic stress (caused by lameness) using heart rate variability (HRV) in farm animals (i.e. dairy cattle) (3). Recently, we have determined the essential relationships between fear from humans and the basal tone of the autonomic nervous system (based on HRV measurement) using an approaching test at the feeding bunk. We proved that the analysis of the consecutive interbeat intervals (IBI) is useful in the description of physiological differences between individual cows differing in temperament and behavioural reactivity to humans (4). As a result of a 2-year investigation, we have described animal-related and environment-related factors which have significant effect on baseline (calculated for undisturbed lying posture) HRV parameters in dairy cows (5).

Furthermore, our bovine research subgroup compared the accuracy of a commercial PAG-ELISA test (Bovine Preg Test 29) and a bovine pregnancy-associated glycoprotein radioimmunoassay (PAG-RIA) for diagnosing pregnancy at Day 28 after insemination in dairy cows. It was concluded that the commercial PAG-ELISA test is a highly accurate method for diagnosing early pregnancy in dairy cows on Day 28 after AI and may be used as an alternative method to the transrectal ultrasonography and the PAG-RIA test (6). In another study the usefulness of measuring the progesterone (P4) and bPAG-1 concentrations in cases of single versus twin pregnancies and one versus two corpora lutea (CL) at the first 4 months of gestation was evaluated. It was hypothesized that both the number of the CL and the number of foetus might have an effect on P4 and pregnancy protein concentrations, and clinically useful threshold levels can be set up to predict twin gestations. On the basis of these results, the diagnosis of twin pregnancy using pregnancy protein measurements is clinically insufficient before Day 85 of gestation; however, the ability to confirm the early twin pregnancy diagnosis with bPAG-1 measurements appears to be promising (7). In a review paper, the head of the clinical research group has summarised the recent possibilities for the diagnoses of early pregnancy and pregnancy losses in dairy cows. It was concluded that preventive pharmaceutical treatments with human chorionic gonadotropin, gonadotropin realising hormone (GnRH), progesterone-releasing intravaginal device or controlled internal drug release inserts at different time periods at or post-AI may have some benefit in decreasing pregnancy loss, however further examinations are warranted to determine how and when these treatments may influence pregnancy loss in the field (8).

In collaboration with Laboratory of Endocrine Neurobiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Budapest, Hungary we helped the generation and characterization of new antibodies for immunohistochemical detection of GnRH neurons in histological sections (9).

Basic heart rate variability data was collected by the equine research subgroup from pregnant Lipizzaner mares and their foetuses. Heart rate variability (HRV) and its parameters were evaluated in connection with pregnancy and its progress until parturition. Middle- and late-term (days 121-333) pregnant Lipizzaner mares were examined using foeto-maternal electrocardiography (ECG). The mean foetal heart rate (FHR) and the standard deviation of FHR significantly decreased during the pregnancy. Our data showed that HRV in the foal decreased as the pregnancy progressed, which is in contrast with the findings of earlier equine studies. The standard deviation of normal-normal intervals (SDNN) was higher (70 ± 25 to 166 ± 108 msec) than described previously. The root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) decreased from 105 ± 69 to 77 ± 37 msec between the 5th and 11th month of gestation. Using telemetric ECG equipment, we could detect equine foetal heartbeat on day 121 for the first time. In addition, the large differences observed in the HR values of four mare-foetus pairs in four consecutive months support the assumption that there might be ‘high-HR’ and ‘low-HR’ foetuses in horses. It can be concluded that the analysis of FHR and FHRV is a promising tool for the assessment of foetal well-being but the applicability of these parameters in the clinical setting and in studs requires further investigation (10). Furthermore, pregnancy-associated changes in biochemical blood parameters have been evaluated in Lipizzaner broodmares (11). In another study, we evaluated the possible role and clinical significance of a foetal serum protein, called alpha-fetoprotein, in connection with foetal well-being and foetal health status in pregnant mares. We have proved that in case of a dead or absorbed foetus, the maternal serum level of alpha-fetoprotein is elevated (12).

Any factors that increase negative pressure in the upper respiratory tract (URT) can influence its mechanics. The aim of this report was to describe the results of URT diagnostic evaluation with overground endoscopy (OE) in sport and pleasure horses. The URT and plasma lactate levels were evaluated during rest and during OE examination. Dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) was diagnosed in 8/19 horses, which might have developed secondary to URT or lower respiratory tract inflammation or obstruction. DDSP was also detected at rest in 4 cases. Laryngeal hemiplegia (LHP) was diagnosed in 15/19 horses. Severe pharyngeal collapse, suspected already at rest, was visible in two cases during exercise. Plasma lactate levels significantly decreased during exercise. All DDSP cases were suspected to be of inflammatory or obstructive origin, which is different from findings in racehorses, where extrinsic causes are more common. LHP and pharyngeal collapse could not be predicted on the basis of findings at rest, and increased neuromuscular activity during exercise could compensate for the problem in less severe cases. Decreased levels of lactate could be explained by the increased clearance during exercise (13).

Key words: cow, calving, cardiac vagal tone (non-invasive stress parameter), heart rate variability, chronic stress, lameness, milking, temperament and behavioural reactivity, bovine pregnancy-associated glycoprotein ELISA test, pregnancy-associated glycoprotein radiomimmunoassay test, pregnancy diagnosis, twin pregnancy, pregnancy loss, horse, Lipizzaner broodmares, heart rate, Equine alpha-fetoprotein, biochemical parameters, overground endoscopy.

Most important published references:

Bovine group:

  1. Kovács L, Tőzsér J, Kézér FL, Ruff F, Aubin-Wodala M, Albert E, Choukeir A, Szelényi Z, Szenci O. Heart rate and heart rate variability in multiparous dairy cows with unassisted calvings in the periparturient period. Physiology and Behavior, 139. 281-289. (2015)
  2. Kézér FL, Kovács L, Tőzsér J. Step behaviour and autonomic nervous system activity in multiparous dairy cows during milking in a herringbone milking system. Animal, 8. 1393-1396. (2015)
  3. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Jurkovich V, Kulcsár-Huszenicza M, Tőzsér J. Heart rate variability as an indicator of chronic stress caused by lameness in dairy cows. Plos One10(8): e0134792. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134792. (2015)
  4. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Tőzsér J, Szenci O, Póti P, Pajor F. Heart rate and heart rate variability in dairy cows with different temperament and behavioural reactivity to humans. Plos One 10(8): e0136294. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136294. (2015)
  5. Kovács L, Kézér FL, Bakony M, Hufnágel L, Tőzsér J, Jurkovich V. Associations between heart rate variability parameters and housing- and individual-related variables in dairy cows using canonical correspondence analysis. PLoS ONE 10 (12): e0145313. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0145313. (2015)
  6. Karen A, De Sousa NM, Beckers JF, Bajcsy ÁCS, Tibold J, Mádl I, Szenci O. Comparison of a commercial bovine pregnancy-associated glycoprotein ELISA test and a pregnancy-associated glycoprotein radiomimmunoassay test for early pregnancy diagnosis in dairy cattle. Animal Reproduction Science 158. 31-37. (2015)
  7. Szelényi Z, Szenci O, Répási A, Melo de Sousa N, Beckers JF. Accuracy of diagnosing double corpora lutea and twin pregnancy by measuring serum progesterone and bovine pregnancy-associated glycoprotein 1 in the first trimester of gestation in dairy cows. Theriogenology 84. 76-81. (2015)
  8. Szenci O. Recent possibilities for the diagnosis and pharmacological control of pregnancy loss in dairy cow. Journal of Life Sciences (Libertyville) 9. 171-180. (2015)
  9. Skrapits K, Kanti V, Savanyu Z, Maurnyi C, Szenci O, Horvath A, Borsay BA, Herczeg L, Liposits Z, Hrabovszky E. Lateral hypothalamic orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone neurons provide direct input to gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons in the human. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 9: p. 348. (2015)

Equine group:

  1. Baska-Vincze B, Baska F, Szenci O. Fetal heart rate and fetal heart rate variability in Lipizzaner broodmares. Acta Veterinaria Hungarica 63. 89-99. (2015)
  2. Vincze B, Kutasi O, Baska F, Szenci O. Pregnancy-associated changes of serum biochemical values in lippizaner broodmares. Acta Veterinaria Hungarica 63. 303-316. (2015)
  3. Vincze B, Gáspárdy A, Kulcsár M, Baska F, Bálint Á, Hegedűs GyT, Szenci O. Equine alpha-fetoprotein (EqAFP) levels in Lipizzaner mares with normal pregnancies and with pregnancy loss. Theriogenology 84. 1581-1586. (2015)
  4. Joo K, Szenci O, Bohak Zs, Povazsai A, Kutasi O. Evaluation of overground endoscopy findings in sport and pleasure horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 35. 756-762. (2015)


I. Main duties of the research unit in 2014

I/a Summary of the 5-year research project: The main goal of the research project is to develop diagnostic methods for cattle and equine medicine. We used polar heart rate (HR) receivers for recording cardiac activity, boluses for the detection of rumen pH and temperature both allowing 24-h data collection during the periparturient period.
Our aim is to evaluate the effects of certain technological (such as calving assistance) and other environmental factors on the animal’s stress-tolerance by means of heart rate variability (HRV) analysis. These investigations help us in the elaboration of quality assurance methods, which contribute to the improvement of the profitability of the cattle breeding in Hungary.

In addition, we are examining the effects of certain uterotonicums, and several causative agents, especially the Haemophilus somnus and bovine herpes virus 4 on uterine involution during the early postpartum and conception rate as well.

We emphasises the diagnosis of mastitis and claw horn disorders occurring around calving. Since a significant relationship between certain stereotypes and clinical mastitis is hypothesised, therefore we consider the detection of different sources of stereotypes as one of our most important tasks.

Exercise testing of the racehorses in Hungary may recognise hidden reserves in the performance of the local thoroughbreds. We try to improve the international horse racing results of Hungary.
Exact mapping of the paranasal sinuses (in particular sinus sphenopalatinus) in horses may help to avoid the sinusitis, and the serious neurological consequences of this inflammation.

I/b Brief summary of compliance: The bovine research group carried out experiments designed for the detailed monitoring of the physiological and behavioural concerns of the periparturient period for the prediction of the onset of calving and the determination of stress levels during the separated stages of calving.

The physiological ground of this method is the fact that cardiac output is controlled by the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, and their dynamic balance. By means of HRV analysis we are able to monitor the vagal and sympathetic activity parallel at the same time and it is also possible to separate them. As vagal tone decreases with a parallel increase of sympathetic tone in response situations, parameters of HRV are appropriate for the assessment of stress caused by technology and generally by the environment. During our experiment, we monitored the parturition of approx. 300 heifers and cows and tested the efficiency of a calving onset predictor device as well. We attended on the 24th International Congress of the Hungarian Association of Buiatrics with 12 oral presentations and with three posters, on the Middle European Buiatrics Congress, Warsaw with two oral presentations and five posters, on the World Buiatrics Congress, Cairns, Australia with three oral presentations. We prepared two scientific papers.

The equine group examined horses using an endoscope applicable under field conditions. Until date, 19 horses were examined. We presented our results on international congresses with three oral presentations and prepared two scientific papers.

We published 10 articles in the Hungarian Veterinary Journal in the above mentioned topics (see

I/c Duty of the first report year: The cattle research group carried out the monitoring of the periparturient period involving 200 heifers and cows in the experiment. The equine group studied the possible reasons and prevalence of the performance reduction in sport horses and equine sinus disorders which were investigated based on diagnostic and etiological aspects.
Although the original aims of the project did not include the following topics, we have begun the transabdominal ultrasonographic examinations on pregnant mares and cows, and the reproduction and andrological examinations on farm animals as well.

II. Remarkable research and other results in 2014

II/a Remarkable research results

The bovine research group obtained three major results. During the first experiment we recorded HR and HRV as non-invasive measures of the autonomic nervous system activity in Holstein–Frisian dairy cows with unassisted calving. We have evaluated the main effects of several factors (body condition of the dam, live body weight of the calf, duration of the calving, time of day at birth) on cows’ cardiac activity. All HRV indices were affected by the duration of calving measured either at the late second stage of calving and between 12 and 24 h after calving. Vagal activity decreased, whereas sympathovagal balance shifted towards sympathetic tone with increased live body weight of the calf suggesting higher levels of pain associated with higher body weight of calves. We found HR and HRV useful both for the prediction of the onset of calving and for the assessment of stress during parturition (article in press).

Results of our second study were fundamental in terms of methodology, as we proved that both HR and HRV have circadian and seasonal rhythm (article in preparation). So far, there is no information regarding physiological rhythms of dairy cattle. Values of HR and the high frequency component (HF) of HRV were evaluated in each hour and when animals were in lying posture. HR was balanced over the day in winter (ranged between 70.2 and 76.1 beats/min), while in summer a significant difference was observed between 5 am (68.2±6.4) and 5 pm (83.8±7.6). HF showed diurnal rhythm when measured in summer; however, vagal activity was balanced in winter during the day. High daytime HR and low HF values measured in the summer are suggested to be the consequences of the rise of the ambient temperature from the morning hours and the parallel increased metabolic activity of the animals.

In our third experiment, we evaluated cardiac responses to palpation per rectum in lactating and non-lactating dairy cows. Palpation per rectum caused stress for both lactating and non-lactating cows. Lactating cows exhibited lower short-term cardiac responsiveness to palpation per rectum than non-lactating animals, whereas in terms of magnitude and duration cardiac responses mirrored by vagal indices of HRV were more intensive in lactating cows than non-lactating ones. Short-term vagal responses were higher in non-lactating cows, compared to lactating animals. Our results indicate a longer duration of stress in lactating cows (see Kovács et al., 2014). Based on our findings, it is worth investigating whether the differences owed to lactation have a physiological or a management-related background.

The equine group investigated via overground endoscopy (OE) the upper respiratory tract (URT) functional diseases in horses. The study was restricted to sport and pleasure horses. Following a clinical examination and recording the medical history, the upper airway was evaluated during rest and exercise. Horses were ridden by their usual riders, whom were asked to perform a normal training session. When history and/or clinical examination suggested a significant lower airway obstruction we performed bronchoalveolar lavage. Blood samples were collected at rest, during exercise and post–exercise in order to measure plasma lactate levels. Nineteen horses were included in our study. Seven different types of URT disorders were observed, these were appearing in a multiple form (combination of 2 or more dynamic obstructions) in 15/19 cases. All DDSP cases were of inflammatory or obstructive causes, which are different from findings in racehorses, where extrinsic causes are more common. Resting endoscopy examinations were not just specific but also sensitive in the obstructive origin cases. Since all DDSP and grade 2 and 3 laryngeal hemiplegia cases were combined, treatment strategies have to be based also on the simultaneous findings. Vocal cord collapse, arytenoid cartilage collapse and pharyngeal collapse were not possible to predict based on findings at rest and increased neuromuscular activity during exercise could compensate for less severe cases. Contrary to race horses, measuring plasma lactate levels were not an objective way to define poor performance developed secondary to URT functional disease in our examined population (publication in preparation).

II/b Science and Society

We have presented our recent results on national and international congresses. The project leader gave lectures in Australia, Czech Republic, China, Poland and Uruguay as a keynote speaker (see In addition, we were co-organizers of the 24th International Congress of the Hungarian Association of Buiatrics without additional support.

III. A presentation of national and international relations in 2014

We built up a scientific co-operation with the National Stud Farm in Szivásvárad and with the Veterinary Faculty of the Agriculture University of Peking.

IV. Brief summary of national and international research proposals, winning in 2014

High-end Foreign Expert Recruitment Program (No GDT 2014100043), Peking, in which the project leader and 2 senior researchers spent two months in China (Grant: 140000 Yuan/year). Levente Kovács: Balassi Institute Student Mobility Program (TÁMOP-4.2.4B/1-11/1-2012-0001 project: 170000 HUF) and Hungarian Academy of Science Junior National Congress Grant (300000 HUF).

V. List of important publications in 2014

Cattle research group:

  1. Karen A, Bajcsy ÁCs, Minoia R, Kovács R, De Sousa NM. et al. (4 co-authors) Szenci O: Relationship of progesterone, bovine pregnancy-associated glycoprotein-1 and nitric oxide with late embryonic and early fetal mortalities in dairy cows. J Reprod Develop, 60: 162-167 (2014). DOI: 10.1262/jrd.2013-033
  2. Kovács L, Tőzsér J, Szenci O, Póti P, Kézér FL, Ruff F. et al. (4 co-authors): Cardiac responses to palpation per rectum in lactating and non-lactating dairy cows. J Dairy Sci, 97: 6955-6963 (2014). 10.3168/jds.2014-8327

Equine research group:

  1. Baska-Vincze B, Baska F, Szenci O: Transabdominal ultrasonographic evaluation of fetal well-being in the late-term mare and cow. Acta Vet Hung, 62: 439-451 (2014). DOI: 10.1556/AVet.2014.018
  2. Bohák Zs, Kutasi O, Sárdi S, Moravszki L, Szenci O: Successful postnatal care of a premature orphan foal delivered by caesarean section. Int J Vet Med: Research and Reports, 162-176 (2014). DOI: 10.5171/2014.162176


I. Main duties of the research unit in 2013

After the foundation of the MTA-SZIE Large Animal Clinical Research Group, the aims of our research have been divided according to the two large animal species (cattle, horse) into two parts: The bovine research group monitored the peripartal period, whereas the work of the equine research group focused on the assessment of the prevalence and the causative factors of the decrease in performance level of sport horses, as well as the evaluation of the possible reasons of the paranasal disorders of horses from etiological and diagnostic aspects.

The main goals of the monitoring peripartal cows (using by Polar Equine heart rate monitors for 148 h) were the evaluation of the stress level around calving and the prediction of the onset of calving. Our measurements were based on that previously supported fact, which suggests that by means of monitoring heart rate and its variability the sympathetic and the parasympathetic (vagal) tone of the autonomic nervous system can be separated at the same time. Since stress indicates a decrease in vagal tone parallel with an increase in the sympathetic tone, we found the measurement of heart rate as well as the vagus-associated indices of heart rate variability powerful in the evaluation of the calving ease, the calving circumstances and the procedure of the required calving assistance from the aspects of stress-physiology. Experiments were carried out on a Holstein-Friesian dairy farm owned by the Prograg Agrárcentrum Ltd. in Ráckeresztúr, Lászlópuszta. Till now, calvings of approximately 120 heifers and cows were involved in our study. The efficiency of a newly purchased special calving alarm thermometer (supported by another resource) was also tested. Our research was assisted by 2 Hungarian and 2 foreign PhD students, who are not members of the research group anyway. We presented our results at the 23th International Congress of the Hungarian Association for Buiatrics (9 oral presentations and 3 posters); moreover we participated on the Academic Reports of the Doctoral Program of the Faculty of Veterinary Science with 6–6 oral presentation in both bovine and equine topics. The work of the equine group is supported by an endoscope, which is successfully applicable under field conditions. Using by this device, we are able to examine the horses in their natural environment which may open new dimensions in the recognition / in studying of decrease in performance level of sport horses.

II. Remarkable research and other results in 2013

A literature review written by the direction of a young predoctor of the cattle research group, which provides implications of the future research (Kovács et al., 2014) in the topic of heart rate measurement. This work supports that our procedure of heart rate monitoring is accepted for extensive use.

III. A presentation of national and international relations

The leader of the research group presented our preliminary results (Control of parturition in dairy cow) in Liege (2013 PPP meeting, 2013.09.07). In addition, he gave lectures on 1 world congress (World Veterinary Congress, Prague, Czech Republic) and on 2 international conferences (Poland, Serbia) as a keynote speaker. Two foreign PhD students (from Egypt and Lebanon) joined to the work of the research group. We carried out a mutual research with a co-worker of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Centre Régional de Settat in the framework of a previous TÉT program.

IV. Brief summary of national and international research proposals, winning in 2013

We had no other project.

V. List of important publications in 2013:

  1. Kovács L, Jurkovich V, Bakony M, Szenci O, Póti P, Tőzsér J: Welfare implication of measuring heart rate and heart rate variability in dairy cattle – Literature review and conclusions for future research. ANIMAL, 2014.8.316-330.