Far-off and close-up feeding levels affect immunological performance in grazing dairy cows during the transition period

Joshua Lange, Siva Ganesh, Susanne Meier, Jane K. Kay, Mallory A. Crookenden, Caroline G. Walker, Murray D. Mitchell, Juan J. Loor, John R. Roche, Axel Heiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the peripartum period, dairy cows often have signs of inflammation. Various stresses, including infectious and metabolic diseases, have been discussed as causative for this inflammation. In this study, expression profiles for 17 immune markers were measured in whole blood preparations from 78 dairy cows over a time frame starting 1 wk before calving to 4 wk after calving. Additionally, the effects of far-off and close-up feeding on immune function of dairy cows during the peripartum period were investigated. Cows were assigned to 1 of 2 feeding levels in late lactation to achieve a low and high BCS at the time of dry-off (approximately 4.25 and 5.0 on a 10-point scale). Following dry-off, both herds were managed to achieve a BCS of 5.0 one month before calving; this involved controlled feeding (i.e., maintenance) and over-feeding of ME during the far-off dry period. Within each far-off feeding-level treatment, cows were offered 65, 90, or 120% of their precalving ME requirements for 3 wk precalving in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement. Analysis of gene expression profiles from blood cells revealed effects of time indicating that the transition cow's immune system counteracts the peripartum inflammation, whereas later postcalving it becomes activated to provide protection against postpartum infections. Far-off feeding affected (P < 0.05) the expression of 2 of the investigated genes at calving. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) expression in unstimulated, peripheral leukocytes were lower (P < 0.05) in animals from the Far-Off-Over-fed group compared with the Far-Off-Control-fed group. Close-up feeding had several effects on gene expression, indicating that immune function in Feed120 animals was distinct from the Feed90 and Feed65. In conclusion, feeding management precalving becomes an important intervention to ensure immunocompetence at and after calving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-207
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • immunity
  • immunocompetence
  • peripartum period
  • transition cow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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