New perspectives on cow transition

Published on
November 1, 2017

Over 300 participants attended the 10th International Dairy Nutrition Symposium in Wageningen. Eight speakers discussed various aspects of the transition period of dairy cattle, looking for the optimization of health and production.

The first speaker Prof. Marten Scheffer (Wageningen University) showed his work on critical transitions in various systems. Starting with the resilience of the earth and her ecosystems, he showed the same principles to be applicable in human and veterinary medicine. Too many stressors (of any kind) may put a cow just over that tipping point – measuring biomarkers will help to measure resilience and preventing disease in an early stage.

Prof. Ynte Schukken (GD Animal Health, Wageningen University, Utrecht University) followed up on this topic showing his work on the mammary microbiome and the resilience of a cow in relationship to udder infections. He clearly showed a healthy udder is not sterile at all; the mammary gland has a diverse population of microorganisms.

Prof. Stephen LeBlanc (University of Guelph) spoke on the interactions between energy metabolism, the immune system and fertility results in early lactation. Optimizing metabolic health, immune function, production and reproduction requires a high feed intake level: use your transition checklist!

The 10th International Dairy Nutrition Symposium in Wageningen
The 10th International Dairy Nutrition Symposium in Wageningen

After lunch Prof. Bas Kemp (Wageningen University) triggered the audience by showing recent developments in swine production and discussing these results when applying them to the dairy sector. There is a lot to learn from other research fields if you dare to think out-of-the-box.

Dr. Harald Hammon (Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Germany) continued with an overview of the work on the hepatic metabolism of glucose in the transition cow. Transition cow metabolism and lactogenesis requires a high activity of gluconeogenesis; mainly based on processing propionic acid and lactate, but not that much from amino acids or glycerol.

Dr. Hélène Lapierre (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) showed her work on amino acid metabolism in the periparturient dairy cow. Feeding additional amino acids does not seem to improve the balance between amino acid input and output of the udder: it will increase milk (protein) production, without closing that gap.

The current ideas on the origin of metabolic diseases where questioned by Dr. Lance Baumgard (Iowa State University, USA). He showed results from research projects focussing on the consequences of a leaky gut, which could also be a pathophysiological pathway leading to symptoms of ketosis or heat stress.

Prof. John Fetrow (University of Minnesota, USA) concluded the day with his economic analysis of transition diseases. Even though models “are always wrong”, some of them are useful and they do give you a clear indication to what extent your options for prevention and the reduction of disease costs are relevant to the individual dairy farmer.