Variation in fat mobilization during early lactation differently affects feed intake, body condition, and lipid and glucose metabolism in high-yielding dairy cows.

Weber, C.; Hametner, C.; Tuchscherer, A.; Losand, B.; Kanitz, E.; Otten, W.; Singh, S. P.; Bruckmaier, Rupert M; Becker, F.; Kanitz, W.; Hammon, H. M. (2013). Variation in fat mobilization during early lactation differently affects feed intake, body condition, and lipid and glucose metabolism in high-yielding dairy cows. Journal of dairy science, 96(1), pp. 165-180. American Dairy Science Association 10.3168/jds.2012-5574

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Fat mobilization to meet energy requirements during early lactation is inevitable because of insufficient feed intake, but differs greatly among high-yielding dairy cows. Therefore, we studied milk production, feed intake, and body condition as well as metabolic and endocrine changes in high-yielding dairy cows to identify variable strategies in metabolic and endocrine adaptation to overcome postpartum metabolic load attributable to milk production. Cows used in this study varied in fat mobilization around calving, as classified by mean total liver fat concentrations (LFC) postpartum. German Holstein cows (n=27) were studied from dry off until d 63 postpartum in their third lactation. All cows were fed the same total mixed rations ad libitum during the dry period and lactation. Plasma concentrations of metabolites and hormones were measured in blood samples taken at d 56, 28, 15, and 5 before expected calving and at d 1 and once weekly up to d 63 postpartum. Liver biopsies were taken on d 56 and 15 before calving, and on d 1, 14, 28, and 49 postpartum to measure LFC and glycogen concentrations. Cows were grouped accordingly to mean total LFC on d 1, 14, and 28 in high, medium, and low fat-mobilizing cows. Mean LFC (±SEM) differed among groups and were 351±14, 250±10, and 159±9 mg/g of dry matter for high, medium, and low fat-mobilizing cows, respectively, whereas hepatic glycogen concentrations postpartum were the highest in low fat-mobilizing cows. Cows in the low group showed the highest dry matter intake and the least negative energy balance postpartum, but energy-corrected milk yield was similar among groups. The decrease in body weight postpartum was greatest in high fat-mobilizing cows, but the decrease in backfat thickness was greatest in medium fat-mobilizing cows. Plasma concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate were highest around calving in high fat-mobilizing cows. Plasma triglycerides were highest in the medium group and plasma cholesterol concentrations were lowest in the high group at calving. During early lactation, the decrease in plasma glucose concentrations was greatest in the high group, and plasma insulin concentrations postpartum were highest in the low group. The revised quantitative insulin sensitivity check index values decreased during the transition period and postpartum, and were highest in the medium group. Plasma cortisol concentrations during the transition period and postpartum period and plasma leptin concentrations were highest in the medium group. In conclusion, cows adapted differently to the metabolic load and used variable strategies for homeorhetic regulation of milk production. Differences in fat mobilization were part of these strategies and contributed to the individual adaptation of energy metabolism to milk production.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Physiology

UniBE Contributor:

Bruckmaier, Rupert


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




American Dairy Science Association




Susanne Portner

Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2014 14:45

Last Modified:

01 Jan 2015 09:03

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

dairy cow, fat mobilization, energy metabolism




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