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The transition period for a dairy cow is a time of great risk for the animal. It is a period in which the animal undergoes extreme metabolic and physiological changes that may compromise a cow’s immune system putting it at risk for disease. Several studies have already reported compromised immune systems in cattle just before calving and extending into early lactation. Developing strategies to strengthen a cow’s immune status during this critical period is of utmost importance for the sustainability of any dairy operation.

It has been well documented that nutritional management can have a profound impact on the immune status of the transition cow. Research has demonstrated the ability of dietary fatty acid supplementation to impact immune cell function and inflammatory responses. Improving immune cell function and modulating the expression of inflammatory pathways has the potential to benefit the transition cow when its immune status is compromised. However, there is limited information on the immunological effects of specific fatty acids in transition dairy cow diets, and more research is needed.

Molly Penn State 1

Dr. Troy Ott and his research team at Penn State University worked to fill in some of these informational gaps by determining if feeding linPRO-R - a flaxseed-based feed ingredient and source of omega-3 fatty acids - would promote an anti-inflammatory response in transition dairy cows.

The study involved mature lactating dairy cows that were fed either a control ration or a ration supplemented with 1.6 lbs. of the linPRO-R product for a period of 21 days post-calving. Samples of blood, immune cells and the milk were collected and analyzed.

Results of Dr. Ott’s research confirmed that feeding linPRO-R to transition dairy cows elicits anti-inflammatory immune response. This was identified by a reduction in the expression of key inflammatory markers such as TNFalpha, IL-6 and IL-10.  

“Ongoing research at Penn State supports the hypothesis that feeding a diet enriched in omega-3 fatty acids (LinPRO-R) from calving to 21 days after calving alters immune cell function in transition dairy”

- Dr. Troy Ott, Professor of Reproductive Physiology, Penn State University; Associate Director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

The next stage of the Penn State research takes linPRO-R out into the real world. Dr. Ott and his team are currently evaluating different linPRO-R transition cow feeding programs under large-scale commercial setting over the span of an entire production year. 

 For more information on this and other research, please contact O&T Farms.