The effect of increasing the postpartum metabolizable protein (MP) supply on performance and mammary metabolism was studied using 8 Holstein cows in a complete randomized design. At parturition, cows were assigned to abomasal infusion of water (CTRL) or casein (CAS). Arterial and epigastric venous blood samples were taken 14 d before expected parturition and at 4, 15, and 29 d in milk (DIM). To compensate previously estimated deficiency of essential AA and to avoid oversupply, casein protein infusion was graduated with 696 ± 1, 490 ± 9, and 212 ± 10 g/d at 4, 15 and 29 DIM, respectively. Dry matter intake was unaffected by CAS. Compared with CTRL, MP supply was greater at 4 DIM with CAS but did not differ by 29 DIM. Milk yield was greater with CAS (+7.2 ± 1.3 kg/d from 1 to 29 DIM). Milk protein yield was greater with CAS at 4 DIM and averaged 1,664 ± 39 g/d compared with 1,212 ± 86 g/d for CTRL, but did not differ at 29 DIM (1,383 ± 48 g/d). The ratio of MP total supply to requirement was numerically greater at 4 DIM for CAS compared with CTRL, indicating less postpartum protein deficiency. In contrast, a greater net energy deficiency tended to be induced with CAS, but the greater milk yield allowed a large part of mobilized fat to be secreted in milk. Arterial concentration of total essential AA increased sharply after parturition for CAS compared with slight decreases for CTRL. The patterns of arterial concentrations combined with arterial-mammary venous concentration differences indicated that Lys, Leu, and Tyr were the first-limiting AA at 4 DIM with CTRL. Mammary plasma flow was unaffected by treatment, indicating similar perfusion of mammary tissue. The greater milk yield with CAS was associated with greater mammary uptake of individual essential AA, tendencies to greater uptake of glucose, lactate, and β-hydroxybutyrate, whereas uptakes of volatile fatty acids were unaffected. Despite similar MP supply by 29 DIM, milk and lactose yields were greater with CAS indicating a persistent response to increased postpartum MP supply. In conclusion, the postpartum MP deficiency can have a substantial negative effect in dairy cows as the major outcome of increasing the postpartum MP supply was increased milk, milk protein, and lactose yield, as well as an enhanced MP balance. Potential positive effects for other body functions than milk synthesis are discussed. Future investigations are needed to delineate how to transfer the effect into practical feeding strategies.
Journal of Dairy Science, 2014, Vol 97, Issue 9, p. 5608-5622