With an electric guitar, the right modulation will help produce the right notes. Imagine how fine-tuned you are when you help a cow produce the right immune response at the right phase of the lactation cycle.

Research from the University of Florida shows you can do that by feeding cows a linoleic fatty acid-enriched diet beginning in the close-up period prior to calving until 30 days postpartum. That particular regimen places the cow in a "pro-inflammatory state," making it more likely that an immune response will occur when health challenges arise post-calving. In an experiment, the researchers fed prepartum cows commercially available products containing calcium salts of fatty acids from palm oil versus safflower oil.

Conversely, following a healthy transition period, the researchers found that they could exert an anti-inflammatory state in the breeding period by feeding calcium salts of fatty acids from fish oil. The cows fed those diets had higher pregnancy rates and embryo survival. Therefore, suggested University of Florida graduate research professor emeritus Bill Thatcher at the recent Southwest Nutrition Conference, it would be good to consider sequential feeding of diets rich in linoleic acid during the close-up prepartum stage and then diets rich in eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid during the postpartum period beginning at 30 days through the breeding period. However, he acknowledged that more work needs to be done on the cost-benefit ratio of such changes.