Effects of oral calcium supplementation on productive and reproductive performance in Holstein cows

N. Martinez, L. D.P. Sinedino, R. S. Bisinotto, R. Daetz, C. A. Risco, K. N. Galvão, W. W. Thatcher, J. E.P. Santos

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45 Scopus citations


The objectives of this experiment were to determine the effects of oral Ca supplementation on milk yield, body condition, pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI), and days to pregnancy in Holstein cows considered to be of low (LRM; no calving assistance, live singleton without retained placenta) or high (HRM; at least one of the following: dystocia, twins, stillbirth, retained placenta, or vulvo-vaginal laceration) risk of developing metritis. The hypotheses were that oral Ca supplementation during the early postpartum period would reduce the loss of body condition and improve lactation performance and reproduction. Four hundred fifty Holstein cows were blocked by parity as primiparous cows (n = 174) or multiparous cows (n = 276). Within parity, a cow considered at HRM was matched with a cow of LRM and the pair was randomly assigned to control (no Ca supplementation), 86 g of Ca on d 0 and 1 postpartum (CaS1), or 86 g of Ca on d 0 and 1 postpartum followed by 43 g/d on d 2 to 4 postpartum (CaS4). Body condition was scored at calving and 32 d postpartum and estrous cyclicity was evaluated at 38 and 52 d postpartum. Milk yield was recorded daily. Multiparous cows were classified as above or below the mean 305-d mature equivalent milk yield based on production in the previous lactation. Reproductive performance was evaluated for the first 210 d postpartum. Body condition did not differ among treatments, and cows lost on average 0.44 units of body condition in the first month of lactation. Calcium supplementation did not affect milk yield in the first 5 mo postpartum. For multiparous cows, Ca supplementation was beneficial to milk yield in the first 30 DIM in cows of greater production potential, but detrimental to multiparous cows with below average production potential. Calcium supplementation to primiparous cows reduced P/AI at first (control = 55.8, CaS1 = 31.5, CaS4 = 37.0%) and all artificial inseminations (control = 48.5, CaS1 = 34.6, CaS4 = 38.5%); however, Ca supplementation to multiparous cows improved P/AI at the first (control = 32.1, CaS1 = 38.6, CaS4 = 41.3%) and all artificial inseminations (control = 28.1, CaS1 = 35.3, CaS4 = 40.5%). These responses in P/AI to Ca supplementation resulted in extended median days to pregnancy (control = 75, CaS1 = 100, CaS4 = 94 d) and smaller proportion of pregnant cows (control = 89.3, CaS1 = 83.9, CaS4 = 83.9%) in primiparous cows, but shorter days to pregnancy (control = 115, CaS1 = 94, CaS4 = 94 d) and increased proportion of pregnant cows in multiparous cows (control = 67.0, CaS1 = 77.2, CaS4 = 74.3%). Risk of metritis depressed most measures of reproduction evaluated in the experiment. Results indicate that responses to oral Ca supplementation are conditional on parity and production potential of cows. Oral Ca supplementation was detrimental to reproduction in primiparous cows. On the other hand, Ca supplementation benefited reproduction in multiparous cows and milk yield in the cohort of multiparous cows of greater production potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8417-8430
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the owners and staff of River Ranch farms (Hanford, CA) for the use of their cows and facilities. We thank Lucas Oliveira, Matheus Pansani, Nienke Vande Burgwal, Mariska Bosman, and Patrícia Carneiro (University of Florida, Gainesville) for assistance with the conduct of the experiment. Financial support for this project was provided by a grant from the Southeast Milk Inc. Checkoff Program (Belleview, FL).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Dairy Science Association


  • calcium supplementation
  • dairy cow
  • milk yield
  • reproduction


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