Effect of dietary starch level and high rumen-undegradable protein on endocrine-metabolic status, milk yield, and milk composition in dairy cows during early and late lactation

F. Piccioli-Cappelli, J. J. Loor, C. J. Seal, A. Minuti, E. Trevisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diet composition defines the amount and type of nutrients absorbed by dairy cows. Endocrine-metabolic interactions can influence these parameters, and so nutrient availability for the mammary gland can significantly vary and affect milk yield and its composition. Six dairy cows in early and then late lactation received, for 28 d in a changeover design, 2 diets designed to provide, within the same stage of lactation, similar amounts of rumen fermentable material but either high starch plus sugar (HS) content or low starch plus sugar content (LS). All diets had similar dietary crude protein and calculated supply of essential amino acids. Dry matter intake within each stage of lactation was similar between groups. Milk yield was similar between groups in early lactation, whereas a higher milk yield was observed in late lactation when feeding HS. At the metabolic level, the main difference observed between the diets in both stages of lactation was lower blood glucose in cows fed LS. The lower glucose availability during consumption of LS caused substantial modifications in the circulating and postprandial pattern of metabolic hormones. Feeding LS versus HS resulted in an increase in the ratio of bovine somatotropin to insulin. This increased mobilization of lipid reserves resulted in higher blood concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate, which contributed to the higher milk fat content in both stages of lactation in the LS group. This greater recourse to body fat stores was confirmed by the greater loss of body weight during early lactation and the slower recovery of body weight in late lactation in cows fed LS. The lower insulin to glucagon ratio observed in cows fed LS in early and late lactation likely caused an increase in hepatic uptake and catabolism of amino acids, as confirmed by the higher blood urea concentrations. Despite the higher catabolism of amino acids in LS in early lactation, similar milk protein output was observed for both diets, suggesting similar availability of amino acids for peripheral tissue and mammary gland. The latter could be the result of sparing of amino acids at the gut level due to starch that escaped from the rumen, and to the balanced amino acid profile of digestible protein. This last aspect appears worthy of further research, with the aim to enhance the efficiency of protein metabolism of dairy cows, reducing environmental nitrogen pollution without affecting milk yield potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7788-7803
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Dairy cow
  • Metabolism
  • Milk composition
  • Starch level

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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