We investigated how concentrate feeding during the last 21 d of pregnancy affects reticular pH, inflammatory response, dry matter (DM) intake, and production performance of dairy cows. We hypothesized that adding concentrates to dairy cow's diet before calving reduces the decrease in reticular pH postpartum and thus alleviates inflammatory response. We also hypothesized that prepartum concentrate feeding increases DM intake postpartum and consequently improves milk performance. Two feeding experiments were conducted using a randomized complete block design. In each experiment, 16 multiparous Finnish Ayrshire cows were paired based on parity, expected calving date, body weight, and milk yield of the previous lactation. Within the pairs, cows were randomly allocated on one of the 2 dietary treatments 21 d before expected calving. In exp. 1, diets were ad libitum feeding of grass silage as a sole feed or supplemented with increasing amounts of concentrate offered separately (increased to 4 kg/d by d ?7). In exp. 2, diets were ad libitum feeding of a total mixed ration containing either grass silage, straw, and rapeseed meal (64%, 28%, and 8% on DM basis, respectively) or grass silage, straw, and cereal-based concentrate mixture (49%, 29%, and 30% on DM basis, respectively). Following calving, all the cows were fed similarly and observed until d 56 postpartum. Feed intake and milk yield were recorded daily, and reticular pH was monitored continuously by reticular pH bolus. Blood samples were collected at the beginning of the experiments, 7 d before the expected calving date, 1 d (in exp. 1) or 5 d (in exp. 2), 10 d, and 21 d postpartum. In exp. 1, concentrate feeding increased metabolizable energy intake and tended to increase DM and crude protein intake prepartum. Moreover, prepartum concentrate feeding increased the concentrations of plasma ?-hydroxybutyrate and insulin, but differences in nonesterified fatty acids, glucose, or acute phase proteins were not observed. After calving, prepartum diet did not affect DM or nutrient intake, plasma energy metabolites, or milk production in exp. 1. Although prepartum concentrate feeding before calving increased reticular pH on the first day of lactation, it elevated plasma concentrations of serum amyloid-A and haptoglobin postpartum in the grass-silage based diets. In exp. 2, adding concentrates to the diet based on a mixture of grass silage and straw did not affect prepartum DM intake or plasma concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids, glucose, or insulin. Adding concentrates to prepartum diet increased plasma concentration of ?-hydroxybutyrate before calving as in exp. 1. After calving, prepartum concentrate feeding increased DM and nutrient intake during the second week of lactation in exp. 2, but no effects were observed thereafter. In contrast to our hypothesis prepartum concentrate feeding decreased reticular pH after calving (6.47 vs. 6.59) in exp. 2, but no differences in inflammatory markers were observed. Based on this study, close-up concentrate feeding in diets based on grass silage with or without straw does not alleviate the decrease in reticular pH or mitigate inflammatory response postpartum.
Original languageFinnish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 412 Animal science, dairy science

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