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Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2017 Oct;30(10):1416-1424. doi: 10.5713/ajas.16.0579. Epub 2017 Mar 25.

Effects of alfalfa flavonoids on the production performance, immune system, and ruminal fermentation of dairy cows.

Zhan J1,2, Liu M1,3, Su X1, Zhan K1, Zhang C1,4, Zhao G1.

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College of Animal Science and Technology, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225009, China.
Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, Jiangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanchang 330200, China.
Jiangsu Joint Institute of Technology of Profession of Huai'an Bio-engineering Branch, Huai'an 223200, China.
Shanghai Bright Holstan Co., Ltd. Shanghai 200443, China.



The objective of this study was to examine the effects of alfalfa flavonoids on the production performance, immunity, and ruminal fermentation of dairy cows.


The experiments employed four primiparous Holstein cows fitted with ruminal cannulas, and used a 4×4 Latin square design. Cattle were fed total mixed ration supplemented with 0 (control group, Con), 20, 60, or 100 mg of alfalfa flavonoids extract (AFE) per kg of dairy cow body weight (BW).


The feed intake of the group receiving 60 mg/kg BW of AFE were significantly higher (p<0.05) than that of the group receiving 100 mg/kg BW. Milk yields and the fat, protein and lactose of milk were unaffected by AFE, while the total solids content of milk reduced (p = 0.05) linearly as AFE supplementation was increased. The somatic cell count of milk in group receiving 60 mg/kg BW of AFE was significantly lower (p<0.05) than that of the control group. Apparent total-tract digestibility of neutral detergent fiber and crude protein showed a tendency to increase (0.05<p≤0.10) with ingestion of AFE. Methane dicarboxylic aldehyde concentration decreased (p = 0.03) linearly, whereas superoxide dismutase activity showed a tendency to increase (p = 0.10) quadratically, with increasing levels of AFE supplementation. The lymphocyte count and the proportion of lymphocytes decreased (p = 0.03) linearly, whereas the proportion of neutrophil granulocytes increased (p = 0.01) linearly with increasing levels of dietary AFE supplementation. The valeric acid/total volatile fatty acid (TVFA) ratio was increased (p = 0.01) linearly with increasing of the level of AFE supplementation, the other ruminal fermentation parameters were not affected by AFE supplementation. Relative levels of the rumen microbe Ruminococcus flavefaciens tended to decrease (p = 0.09) quadratically, whereas those of Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens showed a tendency to increase (p = 0.07) quadratically in response to AFE supplementation.


The results of this study demonstrate that AFE supplementation can alter composition of milk, and may also have an increase tendency of nutrient digestion by regulating populations of microbes in the rumen, improve antioxidant properties by increasing antioxidant enzyme activities, and affect immunity by altering the proportions of lymphocyte and neutrophil granulocytes in dairy cows. The addition of 60 mg/kg BW of AFE to the diet of dairy cows was shown to be beneficial in this study.


Alfalfa; Dairy Cow; Flavonoids; Nutrient Digestibility; Ruminal Fermentation

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