JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Short dry period management improves peripartum ruminal adaptation in dairy cows

M S Jolicoeur, A F Brito, D E Santschi, D Pellerin, D Lefebvre, R Berthiaume, C L Girard
Journal of Dairy Science 2014, 97 (12): 7655-67
25306282
The present study aimed to determine whether the improvement in postpartum energy balance frequently reported in cows under short dry period management could be due to an improvement in ruminal function related to the reduction in the number of diet changes before calving. Six multiparous and 6 primiparous Holstein cows equipped with ruminal cannula were assigned to 6 blocks of 2 cows each according to parity, projected milk production at 305 d, and expected calving date. Within each block, cows were randomly assigned to either a conventional (CDP; 63.2 ± 2.0 d) or a short dry period (SDP; 35.2 ± 2.0 d) management in a randomized complete block design. The CDP cows were fed a far-off diet until 28 d before calving, followed by a prepartum diet, whereas SDP cows received only the prepartum diet. After calving, both groups were fed the same lactation diet. Milk yield and dry matter intake (DMI) were recorded daily and milk composition, weekly. Blood samples were taken twice a week during the first 4 wk postcalving and weekly otherwise. Omasal and ruminal samples were collected approximately 3 wk prior and 3 wk after calving. From 28 d before calving until calving, when the 2 groups of cows were fed the same prepartum diet, there was no effect of the dry period length management on DMI, plasma concentrations of β-hydroxybutyrate, nonesterified fatty acids, and glucose and nutrient digestibility in the rumen. However, CDP cows tended to have lower ruminal pH and higher ruminal concentrations of total volatile fatty acids than SDP cows. From calving to 60 d in milk, daily DMI was higher for SDP than for CDP cows (22.3 ± 0.44 vs. 20.7 ± 0.30 kg), but milk production and milk concentrations and yields of fat, protein, and total solids were not affected by the dry period length management. After calving, body weight loss was reduced and body condition score tended to increase more rapidly for SDP than for CDP cows. Nutrient digestibility in the rumen, expressed in kilograms per day, was greater or tended to be greater for SDP cows, but differences were no longer significant when expressed per unit of nutrient ingested. The decrease in plasma nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate in SDP cows without effect on milk yield suggests an improved energy balance likely due to greater DMI. Results from the present study seem to indicate that reducing the number of diet changes before calving could facilitate ruminal adaptation to the lactation diet and improve energy balance postpartum.

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