Effects of far-off and close-up transition cow feeding on uterine health, postpartum anestrous interval, and reproductive outcomes in pasture-based dairy cows

S. Meier, J. K. Kay, B. Kuhn-Sherlock, A. Heiser, M. D. Mitchell, M. A. Crookenden, M. Vailati Riboni, J. J. Loor, J. R. Roche

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Background: In seasonal, pasture-based, dairy production systems, cows must recover from calving and become pregnant within two to 3 months. To achieve this, the uterus must involute and ovulation must occur and continue at regular intervals. As these processes are affected by the cows' nutritional or metabolic status post-calving, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of cow feeding strategies on uterine health, the length of postpartum anestrous interval, and reproductive outcomes. The treatments consisted of two feeding strategies during late-lactation and early dry period (far-off period; starting 4-month pre-calving) and three close-up dry period feeding regimes (1-month pre-calving) in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement. We randomly assigned 150 cows to one of two far-off treatments. During late lactation, the herds (n = 75 cows per herd) were either control-fed (Controlfed) or over-fed (Overfed) to achieve a low or high body condition score (4-month pre-calving; BCS; ~ 4.25 and ~ 4.75; 10-point scale) at cessation of lactation. Within each of these treatments, three feeding levels were applied during the close-up period (1-month pre-calving): ~ 65% (Feed65), ~ 90% (Feed90), or ~ 120% (Feed120) of metabolizable energy (ME) intakes relative to pre-calving requirements. Results: Uterine health improved (i.e. polymorphonucleated (PMN) cells declined) with increased feeding during the close-up period for cows in the Overfed group. The reverse was evident for the Controlfed group with the greatest PMN at the highest intakes during the close-up period. The postpartum anoestrous interval (PPAI) was shorter in cows from the Overfed group when moderately fed (Feed90) during the close-up period; in comparison, the PPAI was shorter in the Controlfed group, when those cows were overfed in the close-up period (Feed120). The cows in the Overfed treatment had greater conception and pregnancy rates if cows had moderate dry matter intakes (Feed90) during the close-up period; these reproductive variables were less under excessive feed intakes (Feed120); yet, close-up dry matter intake had little effect on conception and pregnancy rates for the Controlfed group. Conclusions: The far-off feeding strategies increased early reproductive outcomes at 3 weeks of mating. Additionally, the interaction between far-off and close-up feeding strategies resulted in high six-week pregnancy rate with a slight restriction during the close-up period but only in the far-off Overfed group. Thus, our hypothesis is supported under these conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalJournal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 6 2020


  • Close-up
  • Dairy cows
  • Far-off
  • Reproduction
  • Transition period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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