• Jin Gan

Healthy Cows During Transition


For the cow to achieve peak performance, her internal systems need to be in prime condition. Stress during transition period can make this challenging. Studies are showing that health problems in transition cows relates to oxidative stress, which is usually caused by abundance of free radicals.

Understanding free radicals

  • Free radicals are a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism

  • Under normal conditions, the body will make sure there is a balance between free radicals and antioxidants.

  • However, when free radical production exceeds body's ability to keep the level balanced, there will be issues.

  • During periods of stress such as transition, a cow's body will produce excessive free radicals.

  • Critical period of stress can include any physiological states associated with increased metabolism such as lactation, growth and calving.

Recognizing danger zone

  • Excessive free radicals are a problem because they are unstable molecules that can damage other molecules when in contact.

  • Free radicals can change the way important enzymes work and damage physical structure of cells and even cause mutations in DNA.

  • These types of damage can weaken the cow's internal system and affect milk production.

  • When the cow experience stress during calving, the added stress of an unbalanced system might cause the cow to have weaker natural defense against diseases such as mastitis.

Finding solutions

  • It is important to study the role of antioxidants play in counteractive free radicals and knowing the critical times a cow may be out of balance.

  • By understanding metabolism, free radicals and what is happening in the cow's body during transition, it will enable you to formulate rations that is suitable to help the cow achieve peak performance.

  • However, it is not as simple as adding antioxidants to the ration.

  • It is important to know then function of each antioxidant in fighting free radicals.

  • Hence, supplementing more of one specific antioxidant may not improve performance.

  • It is best to supply a balance of few types of antioxidants during periods of increased metabolism to ensure the cow is healthy and in peak performance.

  • Discuss with your nutritionist about the antioxidants needed in the ration to deliver nutritional support to your animals.

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