Pregnant cows (n = 189) in two commercial dairy farms were assigned randomly to be fed energy-dense diets for either 3 or 6 wk before expected calving. Cows fed diets for less than or equal to 26 d were designated the short (S) treatment group, and those fed greater than 26 d were the long (L) treatment group. Cows in L tended to have improved energy status during the first 2 wk postpartum, as indicated by higher insulin concentrations and a tendency for lower nonesterified fatty acid concentrations. Treatment did not affect plasma β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations. Cows in L tended to gain more body condition during the late dry period. Total body condition loss from parturition through 6 wk postpartum was not different between treatments, but the rate of change varied over this period. Cows in S lost more body condition during the first 3 wk postpartum than cows in L. In farm 1 only, cows in L lost more body condition from 3 to 6 wk postpartum and had a higher incidence of metritis and a longer interval to first service than cows in S. Cows in L had higher milk protein content through 60 d in milk compared with cows in S. Additionally, cows in L in farm 1 produced 4.4 kg/d less milk, tended to have lower milk fat content and yields, and higher somatic cell counts through 150 d in milk than cows in S. Overall, increasing the length of time cows were fed the energy-dense diet prepartum elicited significant changes in farm 1, but had little effect in farm 2. Based on these results, L treatment may improve energy status immediately postpartum, but long-term effects varied between farms, perhaps due to other unmeasured management differences.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Nobis Dairy Farms and Webster Ridge Dairy for use of cows and excellent on-farm technical assistance provided throughout the experiment. The assistance with sample collection and laboratory analyses of L. Bolinger, L. Chapin, I. Choi, K. Gould, and T. Pilbeam are appreciated. The statistical advice of R. Tempelman and help with metabolite assays and statistical analysis of J. Liesman are acknowledged gratefully. Financial support to conduct the research was provided partially by the Michigan Corn Growers Association.
- Dry cows
- Late gestation