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J Dairy Sci. 2015 Sep;98(9):6304-14. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-9037. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

Supplementation of prepartum dairy cows with β-carotene.

Author information

Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidade Federal de Lavras, 37200-000, Lavras, Brazil.
Departamento de Reprodução Animal, Universidade de São Paulo, 05508-270, São Paulo, Brazil.
Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuária de Minas Gerais, 37200-000, Lavras, Brazil.
Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidade Federal de Lavras, 37200-000, Lavras, Brazil. Electronic address:

Erratum in

  • J Dairy Sci. 2015 Oct;98(10):7419.


The prepartum supplementation of dairy cows with β-carotene was evaluated. Cows were blocked by parity and expected calving date and assigned to a treatment: β-carotene (1.2 g/cow per d) or control (no supplementation). The same total mixed ration batch was offered to all cows, and β-carotene was top dressed to individual cows once per day. The data set contained 283 Holsteins that received a treatment for >14 d (29.1±6.9 d). Frequency distributions were analyzed with the GENMOD procedure of SAS using logistic regression for binomial data. Continuous variables were analyzed with the MIXED procedure of SAS. Within parity, nonparametric estimates of the survivor function for reproductive variables were computed using the product-limit method of the Kaplan-Meier method with the LIFETEST procedure of SAS. Plasma β-carotene concentration before supplementation was similar between supplemented and nonsupplemented cows (2.99µg/mL) and peaked at 3.26±0.175µg/mL on d -15±2.4 precalving for supplemented cows (2.62±0.168µg/mL for control). Colostrum density, milk yield, and milk composition were similar between treatments. β-Carotene tended to increase milk protein content from 2.90 to 2.96% and to decrease the proportion of primiparous cows with a milk fat to protein ratio >1.5 from 22.6 to 6.4%. The proportion of primiparous and multiparous cows with difficult calving, metritis, progesterone >1 ng/mL at 21 d and at 42 d in lactation, % conception at first service, and % pregnancy at 90 and 150 d in lactation were similar between treatments. A trend for decreased incidence of somatic cell count >200,000 cells/mL was present in multiparous cows supplemented with β-carotene (38.9% vs. 28.1%). β-Carotene was associated with a reduction in the proportion of multiparous cows with retained placenta 12 h postpartum from 29.9 to 21.7%; time of placenta release was 392 min (340 to 440) for β-carotene and 490 min (395 to 540) for control (median and 95% confidence interval). For primiparous cows, placenta release was not affected by β-carotene (incidence was 15.4%). The intervals from calving to first estrus, to first service, and to conception were not affected by β-carotene supplementation in either parity. However, independent of treatment, cows with improved reproductive efficiency had increased postpartum β-carotene concentration in plasma. The prepartum supplementation of β-carotene increased plasma concentration around calving. No response in milk yield or reproductive performance was detected. Beta-carotene supplementation was associated with a lower incidence of retained placenta in multiparous cows.


retained placenta; transition period; β-carotene

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