Spicing up the diets of transition dairy cows for their health.

The transition period just before and after calving is the most critical period in the life of a dairy cow, so anything that can decrease metabolic diseases during that time could prove to be significant, researchers say. Nutritional strategies that improve animal health and immune response in transition cows are important.  Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The transition period just before and after calving is the most critical period in the life of a dairy cow, so anything that can decrease metabolic diseases during that time could prove to be significant, researchers say. Nutritional strategies that improve animal health and immune response in transition cows are important. Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Team: Alex Hristov

The transition period of three weeks before and after calving is the most critical period in the life of a dairy cow, so anything that can decrease metabolic diseases then could be significant. During this “transition cow" period, diseases can result in milk yield decreases of 5 to 10 pounds per day at peak lactation, a considerable economic loss for the producer.  Dairy nutrition researchers have been experimenting with dietary supplements to bolster the immune systems of transition cows.

Researchers are using capsicum oleoresin to supplement the feed of transition dairy cows since this extract from chili peppers had the most pronounced effect of the phytonutrient compounds tested on the animals’ health. The extract acts as an antimicrobial and antiseptic. Research indicates that the extract has positive physiological effects on the immune response in ruminants, and in lactating dairy cows in particular.

The regulatory effects of phytonutrients seem to be beneficial for immune suppression of inflammation disease in dairy cows. Let’s conservatively assume that 33 percent of transition dairy cows in the United States will experience one or more metabolic or infectious diseases following calving, and that clinical mastitis is the prevalent disease of transition cows. We’ll also assume 1 percent adoption of capsicum use nationally, and that use of capsicum prevents clinical mastitis in 50 percent of cows receiving it. The estimated average cost of a case of clinical mastitis is $179. Therefore, the savings in milk yield not lost, mortality not experienced, and treatment costs foregone would be more than $2.5 million per year. Follow-up studies are underway to develop a rumen-protected capsicum product to reliably deliver the benefits of phytonutrients to cows’ immune systems.

Funding

USDA NIFA and Multistate Research Appropriations

News

Spicing up diet of transition dairy cows may be good for their health

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Advanced Agricultural and Food Systems

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Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600