Effect of dietary transition at dry off on the behavior and physiology of dairy cows

K M Dancy, E S Ribeiro, T J DeVries
Journal of Dairy Science 2019 February 28
This study (1) investigated the effect of dietary transition at dry off on the behavior and physiology of Holstein dairy cows and (2) evaluated the efficacy of utilizing reductions in dietary nutrient density and milking frequency to mediate the dry-off process. Forty-eight cows were dried off over a 5-d period approximately 60 d before their expected calving dates. At the start of dry off (d 1), cows were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 total mixed rations that differed in nutrient density: higher nutrient density (HND; n = 24) and lower nutrient density (LND; n = 24). During dry off, cows were milked 1×/d on d 1, 2, and 3 and a final time on d 5. Milk yield, feeding behavior, rumination, lying behavior, and reticulorumen pH were monitored electronically and feed samples were collected to determine feed sorting. Blood samples, body condition scores, and body weights were taken periodically. Across treatments, milk yield was reduced by approximately 10 kg/d during dry off, with cows fed the LND diet producing 0.9 kg less milk at the time of dry off compared with cows fed the HND diet. Cows fed the LND diet consumed 2.2 kg less dry matter per day, fed at a slower rate, spent 15.7 min more feeding, and sorted to a greater extent for the smaller, more nutrient dense components of the diet compared with cows fed the HND diet. Despite sorting activity, cows fed the LND diet ruminated 3.3 min more per kilogram of dry matter consumed and had a mean reticulorumen pH 0.07 units higher compared with cows fed the HND diet. Following the start of dry off, cows spent approximately 5% more of their free time lying down. Dietary transition and dry off similarly affected the energy balance and inflammatory response of cows, although these parameters varied by day after the start of dry off. The results of this study indicate that the LND diet more effectively reduced milk production before dry off compared with the HND diet while not substantially altering cow physiology.

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