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A field case study: Body condition change and metabolic status of transition cows in a small dairy farm.

M. Rosales Gallardo



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A field case study: Body condition change and metabolic status of transition cows in a small dairy farm.
M. Rosales Gallardo*1, A. A. Barragan2. 1The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Extension Lancaster, PA, 2Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Penn State University University Park, PA.

Feeding lactating ration leftovers to dry cows or partially using lactating rations to feed dry cows is a common practice often implemented by small-size dairy farmers. These practices could be associated, at least in part, to over conditioning of transition cows. The objective of this case study was to assess the effects of feeding lactating ration leftovers on body condition score (BCS) changes and β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) concentrations during the transition period in dairy cows. This field case study was conducted in a 60-cow dairy farm in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, which fed lactating rations to their dry cows during the case study length. Eleven dairy cows were enrolled at 35 � 3 d before calving and followed for 63 � 3 d after calving. BCS was recorded weekly by the same person during the study period. Blood samples for assessment of BHB were collected at 0 � 3, 7 � 3, 14 � 3, 21 � 3, 28 � 3 and 35 � 3 d after calving. The data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS. The average BCS of this group of cows at calving (0 � 3 DIM) was 3.72 � 0.16 pts. This condition rapidly decreased to 3.29 � 0.15 pts. on d 7 � 3 after calving and to 3.14 � 0.14 pts. at d 14 � 3 after calving. BCS reached the lowest point at 21 � 3 d (3.04 � 0.14 pts.) after calving. Even though a drop in BCS is expected after calving, the study animals lost condition in a rapid and exacerbated manner. The BHB concentration at calving was 0.99 � 0.20 mmol/L and, only second lactation cows had higher BHB concentrations at 14 � 3, 21 � 3 DIM compared with their BHB concentration at calving. Furthermore, in this group of cows, there were 2 subclinical ketosis cases (i.e., BHB >1.2 mmol/L). The results from this field case study suggest that a common dry cow feeding practice in small farms may generate a rapid and exacerbated fat mobilization in the early lactation period, which in turns may increase the risk of infectious and metabolic diseases, impairing the welfare and performance of dairy cows.

Keywords: small farm, body condition, transition cows.