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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

An observational study on early-lactation metabolic profiles in Swedish organically and conventionally managed dairy cows

Fall, N.; Grohn, Y. T.; Forslund, K.; Essen-Gustafsson, B.; Niskanen, R.; Emanuelson, U.

Abstract

The aim of this observational study was to compare indicators of energy balance in early lactation in organically managed dairy cows (OMC) and conventionally managed dairy cows (CMC) under field conditions. The diets of OMC and CMC differ as a consequence of the rules and principles of organic dairy farming. The study was based on clinical examinations and blood samples from cows within the range from 2 wk prepartum to 6 wk postpartum, collected from 20 organic and 20 conventional dairy farms with 3 visits at each farm. The farms were located in a southeastern area of Sweden and ranged in size from 45 to 120 cows. The blood parameters selected to reflect energy metabolism were nonesterified fatty acids, beta-hydroxybutyrate, glucose, and insulin. At clinical examination body condition score was registered. The shape of the lactation curve in early lactation was modeled to assess potential differences that could explain the blood parameter profiles. The conventionally managed cows increased their milk yield faster than OMC within the first 2 wk of lactation. Blood nonesterified fatty acid concentrations were similar between the management types, but with a tendency of lesser concentrations in OMC, primarily in early lactation. Postcalving beta-hydroxybutyrate concentrations were constantly lesser in OMC during the first 6 wk of lactation. An interaction between season and insulin concentration necessitated stratification on season. During spring the profiles overlapped, but there was a significant difference in the first 4 d post-calving, when organically managed cows had greater insulin concentrations and in d 30 to 34 when conventionally managed cows had greater insulin concentrations. During fall the profiles overlapped completely and there was no significant difference at any point in time. Glucose concentrations tended to decrease slightly postcalving followed by a gradual elevation to a concentration just under the precalving concentration during the study period. Body condition scores decreased slightly over the study period. No differences were found between the management types with regard to glucose concentrations or registered body condition score. In conclusion, the OMC did not show a greater extent of mobilization of body tissue than CMC as expressed by our study variables. Hence, OMC adjusted the production amount according to feed intake.

Keywords

organic dairy cow; metabolic profile

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2008, Volume: 91, number: 10, pages: 3983-3992
Publisher: AMER DAIRY SCIENCE ASSOC