Following parturition, it is typical for dairy cows to enter a period of negative energy balance (NEB) and body condition loss to support mammary milk synthesis, and this is associated with compromised reproductive performance. Alternative management strategies during the prepartum (dry) and early post partum periods may ameliorate this. Forty mature Holstein-Friesian cows were assigned to one of two dry period treatments (standard 8 week dry period (SDP) or no planned dry period (NDP)) and one of two dietary energy density treatments (standard TMR (STMR) or high quality TMR (HTMR)). Milk yield during weeks 1 to 12 postpartum was reduced (P = 0.01) in cows assigned to the NDP treatment. Energy balance (P < 0.001) and body condition score (P = 0.07) during weeks 1 to 4 postpartum were increased in cows assigned to the NDP treatment compared to the cows assigned to the SDP, and BCS increased (P<0.001) from weeks 5 to 12 postpartum in the NDP cows compared to the SDP cows. During the first 12 weeks postpartum, cows assigned to the HTMR had greater (P = 0.02) milk yields and reduced (P < 0.001) milk fat concentration compared to the cows assigned the STMR diet. BCS was greater (P = 0.01) from weeks 5 to 12 postpartum in HTMR cows compared to STMR cows. During the period from weeks -3 to +3 relative to parturition, circulating concentrations of insulin (P = 0.001), glucose (P < 0.001) and IGF-I (P = 0.004) were greater in cows on the NDP treatment compared to cows on the SDP treatment. Cows assigned to the HTMR had greater circulating insulin (P = 0.04) and glucose (P = 0.001) concentrations compared to the STMR cows from weeks -3 to +3 relative to parturition. The first postpartum ovulation occurred earlier for cows on the NDP treatment compared to cows on the SDP treatment (16.9 vs. 24.8 days postpartum; P = 0.02). Cows assigned to the STMR tended to have a higher conception rate to first service (P = 0.07) compared to cows assigned to the HTMR. Energy balance and metabolic status can be improved by either eliminating the dry period or by feeding a higher energy diet, but effects on the reproductive axis appear to be different.
Animal & Bioscience
Animal & Grassland Research & Innovation Programme