The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of the starch content of pre- and postpartum diets on productivity, plasma energy metabolites, and serum markers of inflammation of dairy cows during the calving transition period. Eighty-eight primiparous and multiparous cows were randomly assigned to pre- and postpartum dietary treatments balanced for parity and pretrial body condition score at d 28 ± 3 before expected calving date. Cows were fed either a control [Control; 14.0% starch, dry matter (DM) basis] or high-starch (High; 26.1% starch, DM basis) prepartum diet commencing 28 ± 3 d before expected calving date. Following calving, cows were fed either a high-fiber (HF; 33.8% neutral detergent fiber, 25.1% starch, DM basis) or high-starch (HS; 27.2% neutral detergent fiber, 32.8% starch, DM basis) postpartum diet for the first 20 ± 2 d following calving. Cows fed the High prepartum diet had greater DM intake (12.4 vs. 10.2 kg/d), plasma concentrations of insulin (1.72 vs. 14.2 ng/mL), glucose (68.1 vs. 65.0 mg/dL), and glucagon-like peptide-2 (0.41 vs. 0.32 ng/mL) before parturition, but increased plasma free fatty acid concentration (452 vs. 363 µEq/L) and milk fat yield (1.64 vs. 1.48 kg/d) after parturition. Cows fed the HS postpartum diet had lower plasma free fatty acid (372 vs. 442 µEq/L) and serum haptoglobin (0.46 vs. 0.70 mg/mL) concentrations over a 3-wk period after calving. In addition, there was a tendency for interaction between prepartum and postpartum diets for milk yield, where feeding the HS postpartum diet increased milk yield compared with the HF diet for cows fed the Control prepartum diet (40.8 vs. 37.9 kg/d) but not for cows fed the High prepartum diet. These results suggest that management efforts to minimize the change in diet fermentability during the calving transition by feeding the High prepartum diet, the HF postpartum diet, or both did not increase productivity of dairy cows but increased fat mobilization after calving. Our findings also suggest that feeding high-starch postpartum diets can decrease fat mobilization and serum indicators of systemic inflammation and increase milk production even with the transition from a low-starch prepartum diet.
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