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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2003

Effects of feeding intensity during the dry period. 1. Feed intake, body weight, and milk production

Agenas S, Burstedt E, Holtenius K


The objective of this experiment was to study dry matter intake (DMI), body condition, milk yield, and milk composition in cows with different body condition at the time of parturition. Twenty four multiparous cows with genetic merit for high or low milk fat content were assigned to one of three diets during the dry period. The treatments consisted of 6, 9, or 14.5 kg dry matter of a total mixed ration providing 71, 106, or 177 MJ/d of metabolizable energy and are referred to as low (L), medium (M), and high (H) dry period rations, respectively. These diets were introduced when the cows were dried off from the previous lactation, at least 8 wk before expected parturition. After parturition all cows were fed another total mixed ration ad libitum. The dietary treatments generated differences between the groups in body weight as well as in body condition score at parturition. There were no differences in DMI in early lactation, but during wk 6 to 12 DMI was lower among H cows, which was linked to a prolonged negative energy balance in this group. The milk yield was 38.5 +/- 0.8 kg of energy-corrected milk the first 4 wk postpartum and did not differ between treatments or selection lines. Body weight loss mainly occurred in lactation wk 1 to 4 and was greatest in H cows. The mobilization of body tissues was reflected in a higher milk fat content of C-18:0 for the H cows during wk 1 to 4. There were no marked effects of treatments on milk fat content or milk protein con tent, which indicates that cows in early lactation have a potential to compensate for low nutrient intake during the dry period if they are offered a high-quality diet. The observed differences between treatments in DMI wk 6 to 12 could not be explained by differences in milk yield or mobilization of body tissues. Milk fat content was 4.7% in cows with genetic merit for high milk fat content and 4.2% in cows with genetic merit for low milk fat content. There was a tendency for higher body weight in cows with genetic merit for low milk fat content throughout the experiment

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2003, Volume: 86, number: 3, pages: 870-882