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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Oct;91(10):3814-23. doi: 10.3168/jds.2008-1031.

Nutrition, metabolism, and fertility in dairy cows: 1. Dietary energy source and ovarian function.

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University of Nottingham, School of Biosciences, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, United Kingdom.


In previous studies, high plasma insulin was associated with earlier resumption of postpartum estrous cycles in dairy cows. The objective of this experiment was to quantify hormonal and ovarian responses to dietary starch and fat contents. Thirty cows were fed on a standard diet from calving until 40 d in milk (DIM) and then 6 cows were allocated to each of 5 isoenergetic diets containing 231, 183, 159, 135, and 87 g of starch and 39, 42, 43, 45, and 48 g of fat/kg of dry matter (DM) for diets 1 to 5, respectively, until 70 DIM. Estrus was synchronized at 60 DIM. Between 60 and 70 DIM, energy intake, milk yield, and energy balance were similar among diet groups. Plasma insulin-to-glucagon ratio increased with increasing dietary starch and decreasing dietary fat concentrations, reaching a break point at 159 g of starch, 43 g of fat/kg of DM (diets 1 to 5: mean 3.86, 3.78, 3.59, 2.98, 2.06 +/- standard error 0.22). Growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I, and leptin did not vary among diets. The greatest dietary starch concentration was associated with elevated plasma urea-N (diets 1 to 5: mean 3.69, 3.01, 2.94, 2.95, 2.75, +/- standard error 0.13 mmol/L, respectively) and delayed postovulatory progesterone increase (progesterone at 3 to 5 d postovulation for diets 1 to 5: mean 2.7, 5.9, 4.2, 5.6, 4.3 +/- standard error 0.9 ng/mL, respectively). The number of small (<5 mm) ovarian follicles was positively related to starch intake (r = 0.381) and plasma insulin concentration (r = 0.402). It is concluded that to maintain adequate insulin-to-glucagon ratio in cows at the start of the breeding period, dietary starch concentration should be above 160 g/kg of DM and dietary fat below 44 g/kg of DM, and this should have a positive effect on ovarian function.

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