When cows with a “higher” body condition score (BCS) are oversupplied with energy during the dry period, postpartum energy balance is normally reduced, which can have a detrimental effect on immune competence and increase the infectious disease risk. However, within grassland-based systems higher yielding cows frequently have a low BCS at drying off. The effects on performance, health, and metabolic and immune functions of providing additional energy to cows with low BCS during the dry period is less certain. To address this uncertainty, 53 multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows (mean BCS of 2.5; 1–5 scale) were allocated to 1 of 2 treatments at dry-off: silage only or silage plus concentrates. Cows on the silage-only treatment were offered ad libitum access to medium-quality grass silage. Cows on the silage-plus-concentrate treatment were offered ad libitum access to a mixed ration comprising the same grass silage plus concentrates [in a 75:25 dry matter (DM) ratio], which provided a mean concentrate DM intake of 3.0 kg/cow per day. Postpartum, cows were offered a common mixed ration comprising grass silage and concentrates (in a 40:60 DM ratio) for a 70-d period. Offering concentrates during the dry period increased DM intake, tended to increase energy balance, and increased body weight (BW) and BCS gain prepartum. Offering concentrates during the dry period increased BW and BCS loss postpartum and tended to increase milk fat percentage and serum nonesterified fatty acid concentration, but it did not affect postpartum DM intake, energy balance, and milk yield. Although the percentage of phagocytosis-positive neutrophils did not differ, neutrophils from cows on the silage-plus-concentrate treatment had higher phagocytic fluorescence intensity at 1 and 2 wk postpartum and higher phagocytic index at 1 wk postpartum. Serum haptoglobin concentrations and IFN-γ production by pokeweed mitogen stimulated whole blood culture were unaffected by treatment, although haptoglobin concentrations increased and IFN-γ production decreased peripartum. Offering concentrates during the dry period increased the incidence of lameness postpartum, although other health and fertility parameters were unaffected. In conclusion, supplementing low BCS cows with concentrates during the dry period had no effect on performance and fertility and resulted in a higher neutrophil phagocytic index at 1 wk postpartum and an increased incidence of lameness compared with offering cows a grass silage–only diet prepartum.
Little, M. W., O'Connell, N. E., Welsh, M. D., Barley, J., Meade, K. G., & Ferris, C. P. (2016). Prepartum concentrate supplementation of a diet based on medium-quality grass silage: Effects on performance, health, fertility, metabolic function, and immune function of low body condition score cows. Journal of Dairy Science, 99(9), 7102-7122. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11071