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Amino acid complement key to reproductive health in dairy cows

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Lauren Quinn
 |  Farmers Advance

URBANA, IL. — Lysine is a vital amino acid for dairy cows, helping boost milk production when added to the weight loss program at adequate levels. But could lysine profit cows in other ways? A recent University of Illinois study shows rumen protected lysine can improve uterine health if fed in the course of the transition period.

“Right after calving, the uterus is undergoing plenty of changes. The cow had 100 kilos of calf, placenta and fluids in there, but by 30 to 40 days after calving, the uterus has to pull away down and prepare for the subsequent pregnancy. There are plenty of cells regenerating and the cow is potentially vulnerable to infection and inflammation at the moment,” says Phil Cardoso, associate professor and college extension specialist within the department of animal sciences at U of I.

Cardoso and his team added a rumen protected lysine product to total mixed ration (TMR) at 0.54% for 28 days pre-calving. After calving, the lysine was added at 0.4% for an extra 28 days. Cows got the lysine additive before or after calving, or each, with an extra control group consuming no supplemental lysine in either time period.

“We found genes involved with producing inflammatory proteins within the uterus were reduced with rumen protected lysine, especially in cows that consumed the amino acid before and after calving. And genes involved in keeping the uterus clean were more energetic. Altogether, our results indicate less inflammation in these cows, meaning they’ll spend less energy defending against infection,” Cardoso says. “It’s just more efficient.”

Together with characterizing gene expression within the uterus, the team searched for evidence of metritis, a uterine infection affecting 30% of U.S. dairy cows after calving. While the general inflammation status of the uterus improved with lysine supplementation, the researchers didn’t detect a statistical difference in metritis in cows that consumed lysine and people who didn’t.

“Metritis is the clinical presentation of uterine inflammation. It requires a bigger degree of challenge from the environment to point out up. Perhaps our farm doesn’t present real stress in that regard. We did discover a difference within the sub-clinical form, also called subclinical endometritis. Once we counted the variety of inflammatory cells (PMN) within the uterus, cows receiving rumen protected lysine had a lower variety of cells, indicating less inflammation,” Cardoso says.

The team also tracked the primary postpartum follicular growth cycle within the ovaries. Lysine didn’t affect time to first ovulation that averaged 18 days in milk for all groups nor the follicular diameter at ovulation.

Cardoso is neither surprised nor upset that lysine didn’t affect ovulation. He says the health of the uterus right after calving is more vital than producers think.

“Once you ask farmers how they assess reproductive progress and fertility, the reply is all the time pregnancy. Often, farmers are breeding cows around 60 to 70 days after calving, but whether it is unsuccessful, it’s actually because of events like metritis or subclinical endometritis that occur prior to breeding earlier within the cycle. This research shows rumen protected lysine can set your cow up for fulfillment right after calving so she will be able to achieve a good pregnancy later.”

The consequences of lysine line up with Cardoso’s earlier work taking a look at rumen protected methionine, one other limiting amino acid in dairy cows. He showed methionine affected genes related to inflammation and estrogen production and increased embryo survival.

“Our suggestion is to make use of each rumen protected methionine and lysine,” Cardoso says. “We all know each amino acids are limiting in dairy cows, but it surely’s not clear that standard dietary sources, corn or bloodmeal, make it through the rumen to produce cows with the quantity they need.”  

Although rumen protected lysine and methionine products aren’t widely integrated in business feeds, Cardoso says nutritionists are starting to acknowledge their importance within the industry.

“Nutritionists are those that provide you with what’s needed to get results, they usually’re becoming aware of rumen protected amino acid products. But we would like to coach farmers too, in order that they’ll have the opportunity to start out the conversation with nutritionists asking, ‘Hey, is that this something that would help me?’”

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