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Prepartum feeding level and body condition score affect immunological performance in grazing dairy cows during the transition period

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posted on 2023-05-03, 14:43 authored by Joshua Lange, Allison McCarthyAllison McCarthy, Susanne Meier, Jane Kay, Caroline Walker, Mallory Crookenden, Stuart Morgan, Kate Watkins, Murray Mitchell, Juan Loor, John Roche, Axel HeiserAxel Heiser
Precalving feeding level affects dry matter intake, postcalving energy balance, the risk of hepatic lipidosis and metabolic disease, and gene expression in liver and adipose tissue. These coincide with a higher risk of disease postpartum and, very likely, a failure to reach optimum production as well as reproductive targets. Current interpretation of the available evidence suggest that metabolic stressors affect the immune system of transition dairy cows and lead to reduced immunocompetence. The objective of the current study was to investigate the effect of precalving body condition score (BCS) and level of feeding on immunocompetence during the peripartum period. Twenty-three weeks before calving, 78 cows were allocated randomly to 1 of 6 treatment groups (n = 13) in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement: 2 precalving BCS categories (4.0 and 5.0, based on a 10-point scale) and 3 levels of energy intake during the 3 wk preceding calving (75, 100, and 125% of estimated requirements). Blood was sampled precalving and at 1, 2 and 4 wk after calving. Cells were analyzed by flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR. The numbers of T helper lymphocytes (CD4+), cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CD8+), natural killer cells (CD335+), and γδ T lymphocytes (WC1+) as well as their activation status [IL-2 receptor (CD25)+ cells] were highly variable between animals, but there was no evident effect of BCS, feeding level, or time. All groups presented with an increase in expression of cytokines in unstimulated blood cells in the week after calving, although this was significant only for IFNG in the BCS 4.0 group. Analysis of in vitro-stimulated cells allowed 2 general observations: (1) cows with high energy intake precalving (125%) had increased cytokine expression precalving, and (2) all cows had increased cytokine expression in the week after calving. The present study provides evidence that prepartum feed management can affect immunocompetence during the transition period. Considering the current results, optimally conditioned animals might benefit from a restricted precalving diet, whereas underconditioned cows can be fed to requirements.


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© American Dairy Science Association®, 2016.


  • English

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Journal title

Journal of Dairy Science




Lange, J., McCarthy, A., Kay, J., Meier, S., Walker, C., Crookenden, M. A., Mitchell, M. D., Loor, J. J., Roche, J. R., & Heiser, A. (2016). Prepartum feeding level and body condition score affect immunological performance in grazing dairy cows during the transition period. Journal of Dairy Science, 99(3), 2329-2338. doi:10.3168/jds.2015-10135


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