“Our research has fully transformed over the years, shifting from the kind of ‘feed them and weigh them’ kind of studies, that would be focused on parameters such as growth performance and milk production to now looking at nutrigenomics, epigenetics and nutritionally imprinting as well, the impact on the progeny,” Dr Ryan Ordway, director of strategic accounts at Balchem, told us at EuroTier 2022 in Hanover last month.
He was presenting on the topic of transition cow nutrition at the trade show. The transition phase - 21 days before the cow calves through to 21 days after calving - is a critical period for the animal, with many metabolic changes occurring during this time, he noted.
Colostrum yield and quality
Choline is a trimethylated molecule that is frequently supplemented in the diet to periparturient dairy cows to support postpartum health and performance. Whereas the molecule and its metabolites have been characterized in milk, the effects of rumen protected choline (RPC) supplementation on colostrum production from dairy cattle had been little explored.
However, new papers plug that knowledge gap somewhat.
Balchem recently conducted a study in the lab of Dr Barry Bradford at Michigan State University, with the findings presented at the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) meetings this summer. The trial evaluated the benefits to the animal of adding RPC to transition cow diets and how that is impacting the calf.
“What we saw in this study is that there was a significant increase in milk production, even beyond what we have observed before. These animals were milking up to 3.5 liters more milk throughout the entire study, through 12 weeks of lactation, compared to cows that had not received choline.
“When we looked at how we were benefiting the calves, we saw that the choline fed animals increased colostrum yields, to the tune of about 2.5 kg more colostrum produced per day and they were still able to maintain the quality of the colostrum,” reported Dr Ordway.
Further work looking at supplementing RPC during the transition period, undertaken by Dr Heather White, at the University of Wisconsin, supports those findings, and also indicated that supplementation of cows with choline improves calf growth and immune function, added the Balchem spokesperson.