Visceral adipose tissue mass in nonlactating dairy cows fed diets differing in energy density1

J. K. Drackley, R. L. Wallace, D. Graugnard, J. Vasquez, B. F. Richards, J. J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our objective was to determine dietary energy effects on feed intake, internal fat deposition, body condition score (BCS), visceral organ mass, and blood analytes in Holstein cows. Eighteen nonpregnant, nonlactating cows (BCS=3.04±0.25) were blocked based on initial BCS and were randomly assigned within each block to 2 treatments. Treatments were either high energy [HE; net energy for lactation (NEL)=1.62 Mcal/kg] or low energy (LE; NEL=1.35 Mcal/kg) diets fed as total mixed rations for 8 wk. The LE diet consisted of 81.7% forage, including 40.5% wheat straw and 28.3% corn silage, whereas the HE diet contained 73.8% forage with no straw and 49.9% corn silage (dry matter basis). Cows were fed for ad libitum intake once daily at 0800h. Feed intake was recorded daily, blood was sampled at wk 1, 4, and 7, and BCS was assigned at wk 1, 4, and 7. Cows were killed following the 8-wk period, and visceral organs, mammary gland, and internal adipose tissues were weighed and sampled. The HE group had greater dry matter intake (15.9 vs. 11.2±0.5 kg/d) and energy intakes than cows fed LE, but neutral detergent fiber intake did not differ (5.8 vs. 5.6±0.25 kg/d for HE and LE). Final body weight was greater for cows fed HE (807 vs. 750kg), but BCS did not differ between groups (3.52 vs. 3.47 for HE and LE). Omental (26.8 vs. 15.2±1.6 kg/d), mesenteric (21.5 vs. 11.2±1.9kg), and perirenal (8.9 vs. 5.4±0.9kg) adipose tissue masses were larger in HE cows than in LE cows. Although subcutaneous adipose mass was not measured, carcass weight (including hide and subcutaneous fat) did not differ between HE (511kg) and LE (496kg). Liver weight tended to be greater for cows fed HE, but weights of gastrointestinal tract, heart, and kidney did not differ. Serum insulin tended to be greater and the glucose to insulin ratio was lower for cows fed HE. Serum concentrations of β-hydroxybutyrate and cholesterol were greater for HE cows than for LE cows but concentrations of glucose, nonesterified fatty acids, total protein, and albumin did not differ. Final BCS was correlated with masses of omental (r=0.57), mesenteric (r=0.59), and perirenal (r=0.72) adipose tissue, but mesenteric adipose mass increased more as BCS increased for cows fed HE. The similar final BCS between HE and LE cows demonstrates that BCS may lack sensitivity to detect differences in visceral fat deposition that might increase risk for peripartal diseases and disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3420-3430
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Adipose tissue
  • Dry cow
  • Energy intake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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