Metabolic effects of abomasal L-carnitine infusion and feed restriction in lactating holstein cows

D. B. Carlson, N. B. Litherland, H. M. Dann, J. C. Woodworth, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


L-Carnitine is required for mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation, but the effects of carnitine supplementation on nutrient metabolism during dry matter intake depression have not been determined in dairy cows. Studies in other species have revealed responses to L-carnitine that may be of specific benefit to dairy cows during the periparturient period. Eight lactating Holstein cows (132 ± 36 d in milk) were used in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square experiment with 14-d periods. Treatments were factorial combinations of abomasal infusion of either water or L-carnitine (20 g/d; d 5 to 14) and either ad libitum or restricted intake (50% of previous 5-d dry matter intake; d 10 to 14) of a balanced lactation diet. Liver and muscle biopsies were obtained on d 14 of each period. Feed restriction induced negative balances of energy and metabolizable protein. In feed-restricted cows, carnitine infusion increased 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield compared with those infused with water. Total carnitine concentration in liver was increased in feed-restricted cows infused with carnitine but not in feed-restricted cows infused with water. Carnitine infusion stimulated in vitro oxidation of [1-14C] palmitate to acid-soluble products and decreased the proportion of [1-14C] palmitate that was converted to esterified products by liver slices. Feed-restricted cows infused with carnitine had lower liver total lipid concentration and tended to have decreased triglyceride accumulation compared with feed-restricted cows infused with water. Plasma nonesterified fatty acid concentration was not altered by carnitine infusion but was increased by feed restriction; serum β-hydroxybutyric acid was increased by carnitine infusion in feed-restricted cows. In cows fed for ad libitum intake, carnitine infusion affected β-hydroxybutyric acid, insulin, and urea N in serum, liver glycogen concentration, and in vitro alanine oxidation by liver slices, suggesting that hepatic and peripheral nutrient metabolism was influenced. L-Carnitine infusion effectively decreased liver lipid accumulation during feed restriction as a result of greater capacity for hepatic fatty acid oxidation. Further research examining dietary supplementation of L-carnitine during the periparturient period is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4819-4834
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Dairy cow
  • Fatty liver
  • Hepatic metabolism
  • L-carnitine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic effects of abomasal L-carnitine infusion and feed restriction in lactating holstein cows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this