Effects of feeding betaine-containing liquid supplement to transition dairy cows
ABSTRACT Betaine is a natural compound found in sugar beets that serves as a methyl donor and organic osmolyte when fed to animals. The objective was to evaluate the effect of feeding betaine-containing molasses on performance of transition dairy cows during late summer in 2 trials. In early September, cows were randomly assigned to betaine (BET) or control (CON) groups either shortly after dry off (trial 1; n = 10 per treatment) or 24 d before calving (trial 2; n = 8 per treatment) based on parity and previous mature equivalent milk yield. Cows were fed common diets supplemented either with a liquid supplement made of molasses from sugar cane and condensed beet solubles containing betaine [BET, 89.1 g/kg of dry matter (DM)] or a sugar cane molasses-based liquid supplement without betaine (CON) until 8 wk postpartum. The liquid supplements had similar nutrient contents and were fed at a rate of 1.1 and 1.4 kg DM/d for pre- and postpartum cows, respectively. Starting at their entry in the studies, cows were housed in the same freestall barn without a cooling system. After calving, all cows were housed in the same barn cooled by misters and fans and milked thrice daily. Intake was recorded daily and body weight and body condition score were assessed every 2 wk. Milk yield was recorded at each milking and composition was analyzed weekly. Blood samples were collected weekly from a subset of cows to assess concentrations of metabolites and AA. No treatment effects were apparent for DM intake and body weight in the prepartum and postpartum periods. For cows enrolled at dry off, BET supported higher milk yield (45.1 vs. 41.9 kg/d) and fat content (4.78 vs. 4.34%) and elevated plasma concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and β-hydroxybutyrate in early lactation compared to CON. However, no differences were observed for milk yield, most milk component contents and yields, and blood metabolites between treatments for cows enrolled during the close-up period. Compared to cows in the CON group, BET cows enrolled during the far-off period tended to have lower plasma concentrations of Met, Thr, and Trp during the pre- and postpartum periods. They also had lower plasma concentrations of Lys and Phe before calving but higher plasma Gly concentration after parturition. In conclusion, feeding a betaine-containing liquid supplement from far-off through early lactation improves lactation performance but increases adipose tissue mobilization and production of ketone bodies in early lactation.
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