Effects of body condition score at calving and feeding various types of concentrate supplements to grazing dairy cows on early lactation performance
Livestock Science 116(1-3): 191-202
The objective of the experiment reported here was to establish the effect of canola meal supplements of different protein degradability on the performance of grazing dairy cows with different body condition scores (BCS) in early lactation, and to compare this with feeding a cereal grain supplement instead. The experiment included a total of 72 cows in six treatments in a 2 * 3 factorial design, incorporating two BCS at calving (4.1 and 5.6 units on an 8-point scale), and three early lactation pelleted supplements. The three pelleted supplements were 100% wheat (wheat supplement), 50% wheat and 50% untreated mechanically extracted canola meal (a rumen degradable protein supplement), and 50% wheat and 50% canola meal that had been subjected to additional heat and pressure (a rumen undegradable protein supplement). It was hypothesised that fat cows would perform best with the treated canola meal supplement, which provided most rumen undegradable protein, whereas the type of protein would not be important for thin cows, and neither would the type of supplemental energy. Cows grazed pasture after calving at a daily pasture allowance of 35-40 kg Meow and were offered 6 kg concentrates each day. Cows were fed these diets for 92 days on average, from calving until three weeks into the mating period. Both canola meal-based supplements resulted in higher (P < 0.05) daily milk production than the wheat supplement (33.3 and 34.0 v. 30.5 kg/cow) in both thin and fat cows. Body condition score at calving positively (P < 0.05) affected average milk yield (31,6 v. 33.7 kg/cow), however, there was a time x BCS x supplement interaction whereby the fatter cows benefited from the use of either of the canola meal supplements for a longer period than did the thin cows. Average milk fat concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) where the canola meal supplements were fed (39.3 and 39.6 v. 35.6 g/kg), and in fat cows relative to thin cows (40.0 v. 36.3 g/kg). Serum urea concentrations were significantly (P < 0.05) lower in cows fed wheat than in those fed either of the canola meal supplements (3.1 v. 4.3 and 4.2 mmol/L). Serum p-hydroxybutyrate concentrations were lowest (P < 0.05) where wheat pellets were fed, and highest (P < 0.05) where treated canola meal pellets were fed, and plasma glucose concentrations were highest with wheat and lowest with the treated canola meal pellets. Thus, the hypothesis was not supported by the results of this experiment.