Transitioning Dairy Cows into the Biggest Race of Their Lives
When a dry cow transitions to being a lactating cow, her energy requirements are similar to that of a human running two marathons a day. Because of this, the transition period from calving to lactating is critical due to the physiological and endocrinal challenges to homeostasis these cows face. The sudden demand in milk production can cause significant metabolic stress that must be managed and the cow must be prepared. Metabolic stress is often paired with oxidative stress caused by an imbalance in the production of free radicals and peroxides and a lack of antioxidants to neutralize them. The rumen is unable to detoxify the peroxides and free radicals, so they build up, causing a halt in the normal flow of microbial protein synthesis and fiber digestion as well as bio-hydrogenation of fatty acids. Interruptions on a cellular level also occur. For example, lipid membranes are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Free radicals formed during oxidative stress lead to peroxidation of PUFA in the lipid membranes, damaging cells.
All of these issues can cause a decrease in fluid milk production, milk fat production and overall cow health. When antioxidants are fed, they chemically stabilize the harmful free radicals. This neutralizes the free radicals, which allows them to continue along the metabolic pathway and not interrupt normal rumen flow. Antioxidants also help repair cellular damage that occurs from peroxides and oxidative stress. By feeding antioxidants before and throughout transition period, cows are less likely to experience such metabolic stress and will have a smoother and more productive time during lactation.