Last August, we mentioned various nutritional strategies to help curb mastitis in dairy cows. Included was the idea of supplementing with vitamin E, since it is a known antioxidant. When a mammary gland becomes infected, substantial amounts of free radicals are produced during the cows' inflammatory response. Antioxidants help keep the free radicals in check, which increases the lifespan of certain immune cells.

Would the same principle apply to fighting metabolic disorders, such as fatty liver and ketosis? Barry Bradford, professor at Kansas State University, presented an interesting paper on this at the recent Southwest Nutrition & Management Conference in Tempe, Ariz.

Here is his summary:

  • Transition dairy cows are of concern because of high disease incidence, both infections and metabolic.
  • Inflammation occurs during infections like mastitis and metritis, but may also be involved in disorders such as fatty liver and ketosis. All of these conditions lead to decreased productivity and productive life of dairy cattle.
  • Oxidative stress, cytokines, and acute phase proteins are involved in inflammatory reactions and are proposed to promote metabolic disorders.
  • Potential interventions to prevent metabolic inflammation are antioxidants, metabolic modifiers, and non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs.

He adds, "Additional steps, such as the incorporation of Β-carotene or rumen-protected choline, may also help to prevent oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation."