South African Journal of Animal Science

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Effect of late prepartum fibre-based diets on the live weight changes and reproduction of Holstein cows in the subsequent lactation period

B.A. Useni, C.J.C. Muller, C.W. Cruywagen


The objective of this study was to evaluate two late prepartum fibre-based diets that differed in non-structural carbohydrate (NFC) and protein levels on live weight (LW) changes and fertility traits of Holstein cows until 120 days postpartum. At 30 days before calving, 120 pregnant Holsteins (heifers, n = 54 and dry cows, n = 66) from the Elsenburg herd were assigned to two nutritional treatments according to parity, expected calving date, LW, and milk production during the previous lactation. Prepartum heifers and cows were fed independently a similar type and level of a prepartum concentrate, associated with an ad libitum intake of either unchopped oat hay for the control group or a partial total mixed ration (pTMR: oat hay (48%), lucerne hay (43%) and soybean oil cake meal (9%)) for the treatment group. After parturition, cows in both the control and treatment groups were maintained on ad libitum cultivated irrigated kikuyu-ryegrass pastures, supplemented each with a post-partum concentrate of 7 kg/day from calving until 120 days in milk (DIM). As expected, young and still growing primiparous cows were significantly lighter in pre- and post-partum LW traits compared with mature multiparous cows (parity > 3). Prepartum LW of cows was similar between the control and the treatment in both parity groups. Post-partum LW of the primiparous cows differed significantly between the control and the treatment, which were 488 ± 9 and 507 ± 13 kg, respectively. However, no difference was observed in terms of post-partum LW of multiparous cows of the control and the treatment groups, which were 579 ± 10 and 579 ± 8 kg, respectively. Primiparous cows that received the prepartum oat hay-based diet showed significant decrease in post-partum LW loss changes, LWnadir, LW loss at nadir and rate of LW loss from calving to LWnadir in comparison with their counterparts on the prepartum pTMR-based diet, but these LW traits were similar in multiparous cows. Prepartum diets did not have an effect on post-partum fertility parameters of the multiparous cows, whereas primiparous cows that received the control diet recorded a significantly longer interval from calving to first service (CFS) in the subsequent lactation in comparison with their counterparts fed the treatment diet i.e. 117 ± 9 and 86 ± 8 days, respectively. Proportions of cows that were pregnant at 120 DIM were similar in the subsequent lactation between groups that received the prepartum oat hay- and pTMR-based diets in both parity groups. Further research is required to investigate different prepartum feeding periods and nutritional approaches involving various levels and sources of energy and protein nutrients to encourage post-partum metabolic and hormonal responses that benefit the fertility of dairy cows in the subsequent lactation.

Keywords: Dairy, dry period, non-structural carbohydrate, protein, postpartum, pregnancy

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