The other side of the transition: colostrum and calves

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Does how we feed and manage transition cows affect: (a) colostrum; and (b)the calves they produce? To find out, University of Illinois researcher Jim Drackley set out to answer the following, specific questions:

  • Does dry-period nutrition affect colostrum quality or yield?
  • Does dry-period nutrition affect the size and viability of the calf?
  • Does maternal nutrition influence subsequent metabolic or production responses in the offspring?

By analyzing data from existing studies, Drackley determined that:

  • Dry-period nutrition does not affect colostrum quality or yield in cows. Neither colostral IgG nor production levels varied significantly in two studies that compared cows fed various dry-period rations.  Supplementation of dry-period rations with vitamins A and E, does, however, increase the content of those important vitamins in colostrum.
  • Under reasonable nutritional management of dry cows, maternal nutrition will have little impact on calf size. However, recent research shows that a close-up diet enhanced with either additional energy or fat resulted in larger calves than in cows fed a single-group, controlled-energy diet.
  • Under reasonable nutritional management of dry cows, maternal nutrition will have little impact on calf viability in-utero. However, over-fat cows are more susceptible to dystocia, which has been proven to suppress calves’ absorption of colostral IgG, and leave them susceptible to a host of other health and performance impairments.
  • To date, results are inconclusive regarding the long-term performance of offspring whose dams were fed a higher plane of late-lactation nutrition. Drackley does believe, though, that results from other species indicate that enhanced in-utero nutrition could permanently impact future performance in offspring through DNA programming.  He intends to pursue this question with further research.

Read more of Drackley’s insights on this topic here and here.


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