The effect of dry-off ration in dairy cattle on offspring physiology

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    The current research project focuses on how to optimise the ration for high-producing dairy cattle during the dry-off period (a rest period between lactations to prevent problems). The project evaluates the use of two different dry-off rations for high producing dairy cattle and analyses the effect on 1) the productivity of the cow in the next lactation; 2) the quality of the colostrum and its effect on the offspring; and 3) the birth weight, growth and development of the offspring. The dry-off period, which helps the mammary tissue to recover after the previous lactation, lasts 6 to 8 weeks. Excellent management of the dry-off cows is mandatory for the prevention of metabolic problems during the next lactation and might also be beneficial for the health of the offspring.

    Research approach
    The researchers hypothesise that, beside an adequate mineral supply, energy restriction during the dry-off helps to support the cow during the start of the next lactation. The options for energy restriction are numerous and this project will test two of them. At the start of the dry-off period, cows are allocated to one of both test groups. Cows in the control group receive a dry-off ration based on maize silage, cut wheat straw and dry-off mineral concentrate. The cows in the other group receive the same dry-off mineral concentrate and a ration for lactating cows from which energy intake is restricted by dilution with cut wheat straw. During dry–off, individual feed intake of the cows is registered, beside live weight at the start and the end of the dry-off period. The cows’ body condition is scored on a scale from 1 to 5 and the amount of body fat is measured using ultrasound. Additionally, during the next lactation milk production and milk composition is monitored during the first 60 days after calving. The female offspring is weighed after birth and again at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months of age. Colostrum quality is evaluated and passive immunity of the calves is determined at the age of 3 days.

    This research project gathers practical information for dairy farmers in Flanders. The dry-off management is very much driven by the health of the mother, whereas potential effects on the offspring are also important, although less obvious. The researchers intend to spread the results in the dairy farming trade press as well as in international scientific papers.

    Funding provider(s)
    ILVO - Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en voedingsonderzoek

    External partner(s)
    Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
    Effective start/end date1/09/1231/12/14