According to research at the University of Florida, feeding calcium salts of fatty acids during transition and breeding periods can benefit fertility and milk production. Cows that were fed calcium salts of safflower oil, a fat source rich in linoleic acid, from 30 days prepartum to 30 days postpartum and then fed calcium salts of fish oil, a fat source rich in eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, from 30 to 160 days post-partum did particularly well.
"Feeding supplements rich in linoleic acid during the transition period improved milk yield," researchers from the University of Florida wrote in this month's edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.
And, pregnancy per AI was higher, as well. During the breeding period, feeding calcium salts rich in eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids from fish oil may play an important role in regulating the endometrium to support pregnancy.
And, further research at the University of Florida suggests that calcium salts of fish oil can exert an anti-inflammory state in the breeding period, which minimized pregnancy losses by conceptually modulating the immune response down. It's an exciting new area where researchers are learning how to modulate immune function through nutrition. By sequencing the feeding of calcium salts, it may be possible to enhance immune function during the transition period and then dial it down during the breeding period.
The researchers propose feeding diets rich in linoleic acid during the transition period, followed by eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in the breeding period, to maximize dairy cow production and reproduction. However, the cost-benefit ratio still needs to be investigated further, acknowledges Jose Santos, veterinarian and associate professor of animal science at the University of Florida.
"Particularly for the fish oils, the oils can be expensive," he says.