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Supplementing Intensively Grazed Late-Gestation and Early-Lactation Dairy Cattle with Chromium

      Abstract

      Two hundred thirty-two primiparous and multiparous cows were assigned to a study to determine the effect of supplementing 0 or 6.25 mg/d of Cr from Cr Met on lactation and reproductive performance. Cows received treatments from 6 wk precalving through 21 wk postpartum. Precalving, treatments were incorporated into a pelleted grain mixture and group-fed. Post-calving, cows received treatments via an individual oral drench once a day after the a.m. milking. Grazed herbage was the primary diet constituent for lactating cattle. Blood was collected from a predetermined group of cows before and immediately after calving. On 4 occasions during the treatment period, milk yield was recorded and samples collected for determination of composition. Chromium supplementation had no effect on yield of milk and milk components and milk composition. Chromium supplementation decreased serum nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) concentration (0.60 vs. 0.68 mmol/L), with chromium supplementation having the greatest impact on serum NEFA concentrations at 1 wk prepartum. Greater percentages of cows supplemented with Cr were observed to be anestrus by dairy personnel (45.5 vs. 32.0%). However, Cr supplementation tended to increase the percentage of cows pregnant in the first 28 d of the mating season (50.0 vs. 39.2%). Results indicate that Cr Met supplementation of intensely grazed, late-gestation and early-lactation dairy cattle decreased serum NEFA concentrations and tended to increase pregnancy rates in the first 28 d of the mating season.

      Key words

      Abbreviation Key:

      ECM (energy-corrected milk)

      Introduction

      Chromium is generally accepted as an essential nutrient that potentiates insulin action and thus influences carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism (
      • Mertz W.
      Chromium in human nutrition: A review.
      ). Chromium also aids in the conversion of thyroxine to triiodothyronine, increasing the metabolic rate (
      • Burton J.L.
      Supplemental chromium: Its benefits to the bovine immune system.
      ).
      Chromium supplementation of late-gestation and early-lactation dairy cattle may be particularly beneficial. In rats, the fetus accumulates Cr, especially in the last trimester, depleting Cr stores (
      • Anderson R.A.
      Chromium in tissues and fluids.
      ). Also, stress, such as the stress of late gestation and early lactation, increases urinary excretion of Cr in rats (
      • Borel J.S.
      • Majerus T.C.
      • Polansky M.M.
      • Moser P.B.
      • Anderson R.A.
      Chromium intake and urinary chromium excretion of trauma patients.
      ;
      • Anderson R.A.
      • Bryden N.A.
      • Polansky M.M.
      • Moser P.B.
      Exercise effects on Cr excretion of trained and untrained men consuming a constant diet.
      ), further depleting Cr stores.
      Chromium supplementation may mediate immune suppression often observed in stressed animals. Newly arrived beef cattle supplemented with Cr had improved humoral immunity as indicated by increased vaccination titers (
      • Burton J.L.
      • Mallard B.A.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Effects of supplemental chromium on antibody responses of newly weaned feedlot calves to immunization with infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and parainfluenza 3 virus.
      ), and increased serum IgM, IgG (
      • Almeida L.
      • Barajas R.
      Effect of Cr-methionine level supplementation on immune response of bull claves recently arrived to feedlot.
      ;
      • Almeida L.
      • Barajas R.
      Effect of Cr methionine and zinc methionine supplementation on blood concentrations of immunoglobulin G and M and inflammatory response to a phytohemagglutinin in stressed feedlot calves.
      ), and total immunoglobulin concentrations (
      • Chang X.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Supplemental chromium for stressed and growing feeder calves.
      ;
      • Moonsie-Shageer S.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Effect of level of supplemental chromium on performance, serum constituents, and immune status of stressed feeder calves.
      ). Cell-mediated immunity of late-gestation and early-lactation cows also improved in response to Cr as shown by increased lymphocyte blastogenesis (
      • Burton J.L.
      • Mallard B.A.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Effects of supplemental chromium on immune responses of periparturient and early lactation dairy cows.
      ) and increased production of interleukin-2, interferon-γ, and tumor necrosis factor-α (
      • Burton J.L.
      • Nonnecke B.J.
      • Dubeski P.L.
      • Elsasser T.H.
      • Mallard B.A.
      Effects of supplemental chromium on production of cytokines by mitogen-stimulated bovine peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
      ).
      Another benefit of chromium supplementation to the periparturient cow is reduced blood NEFA concentrations (
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      ;
      • DePew C.L.
      • Bunting L.D.
      • Fernandez J.M.
      • Thompson Jr., D.L.
      • Adkinson R.W.
      Performance and metabolic responses of young dairy calves supplemented with chromium tripicolinate.
      ;
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ). Elevated blood NEFA concentrations have been associated with increased risk of periparturient metabolic disorders (
      • Cameron R.E.B.
      • Dyk P.B.
      • Herdt T.H.
      • Kaneene J.B.
      • Miller R.
      • Bucholtz H.F.
      • Liesman J.S.
      • Vandehaar M.J.
      • Emery R.S.
      Dry cow diet, management, and energy balance as risk factors for displaced abomasums in high producing dairy herds.
      ;
      • Drackley J.K.
      Biology of dairy cows during the transition period: The final frontier?.
      ). Reduced blood NEFA concentrations can be partially attributed to increased DMI, commonly observed in response to postpartum Cr supplementation (
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;

      Smith, K. L. 2004. Effects of prepartum carbohydrate source and chromium supplementation in dairy cows during the periparturient period. M.S. Thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

      ). In conjunction with increased DMI, milk yield has increased in response to Cr supplementation (
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      ;
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;

      Smith, K. L. 2004. Effects of prepartum carbohydrate source and chromium supplementation in dairy cows during the periparturient period. M.S. Thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

      ).
      Improving immune function and reducing tissue mobilization may improve fertility of cattle. Research has shown that the incidence of retained placenta is higher in cows with impaired immune function (
      • Gunnink J.W.
      Prepartum leucocytic activity and retained placenta.
      ;
      • Kimura K.
      • Goff J.P.
      • Kehrli Jr., M.E.
      • Reinhardt T.A.
      Decreased neutrophil function as a cause of retained placenta in dairy cattle.
      ), and retained placentas reduce fertility of cattle (
      • Campbell M.H.
      • Miller J.K.
      • Schrick F.N.
      Effect of additional cobalt, copper, manganese, and zinc on reproduction and milk yield of lactating dairy cows receiving bovine somatotropin.
      ;
      • McDougall S.
      Effect of periparturient diseases and conditions on the reproduction performance of New Zealand dairy cows.
      ). Also, reducing blood NEFA has improved fertility of dairy cattle (
      • Westwood C.T.
      • Lean I.J.
      • Gavin J.K.
      Factors influencing fertility of Holstein dairy cows: A multivariate description.
      ). To date, limited research has examined the effect of Cr on fertility of cattle.
      The Cr studies summarized above were conducted with dairy cattle fed diets consisting of cereal grains, oilseed meals, and preserved forages. Research has not examined the effect of supplementing intensively grazed dairy cattle with chromium. In particular, response of intensively grazed dairy cattle in New Zealand may differ, as their diets consist primarily of grazed herbage, and some New Zealand dairy cattle, particularly high-producing cows, may be limited in their ability to consume more DM. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of supplementing intensively grazed New Zealand dairy cattle with Cr from Cr Met, from approximately 6 wk precalving through 21 wk postcalving, on lactation and reproductive performance, as well as on blood and liver composition.

      Materials and Methods

      Experimental Animals and Diets

      All procedures related to animal care were conducted with the approval of the Animal Ethics Committee of the Massey University Animal Health Services Center (Palmerston North, New Zealand). Two hundred thirty-two cows (average BW, 514 kg) from a commercial dairy were assigned to a study to determine the effect of feeding 0 or 6.25 mg/d of Cr from Cr-l-Met (MiCroPlex, Zinpro Corporation, Eden Prairie, MN) on lactation and reproductive performance, as well as blood and liver parameters. One hundred twenty-two cows were assigned to the control diet (24 primiparous cows and 98 multiparous cows), and 110 cows were assigned to the Cr-supplemented diet (19 primiparous cows and 91 multiparous cows). Cows received treatments from approximately 6 wk before calving through 21 wk postpartum. Treatment groups were matched according to age, expected calving date, lactation worth, breeding worth, and previous lactation dry cow therapy, and then randomly assigned to treatments.
      During the last 6 wk of gestation, both treatment and control cows received 1 kg of a pelleted grain supplement. The ingredient composition of the grain supplement fed to both groups of cows was similar except that the Cr grain supplement contained 6.25 mg Cr/kg from Cr Met. The pelleted grain supplement was delivered to cows by dispensing it on the ground under the break wire (Winton Seed Precalving Close-Up Pellet, Winton Stock Feed Ltd., Winton, New Zealand). The 2 groups of cows were kept in the same paddock during this time but were separated by an electric fence.
      In the early dry period, cows were allotted daily (DM basis) approximately 8 kg of turnips (herbage and tuber), 4 kg of grass-legume silage (mixture of midmaturity perennial ryegrass and white clover baled and then ensiled in plastic wrapping), and 1 kg of barley straw in addition to 1 kg of the grain supplement. The last 2 to 3 wk before calving, cows were offered daily (DM basis) approximately 2 to 3 kg of wheat silage, 6 kg of pasture (70% perennial ryegrass and 30% white clover mix), and 4 kg of grass-legume silage in addition to 1 kg of the grain supplement. Allotment of turnips and pasture was controlled by the amount of area cows were allowed to graze. Silage, straw, and grain were delivered to cows under the break wire.
      Samples of feedstuffs offered during the prefresh period were sampled once and analyzed for nutrient content (R.J. Hills Laboratories, Hamilton, New Zealand). Feedstuffs offered during the postpartum period were sampled monthly and analyzed for nutrient content (R.J. Hills Laboratories). In both the pre- and postpartum period, mineral content of feedstuffs was determined using atomic absorption (R.J. Hills Laboratories). Nutrient content of feedstuffs and grain supplements are given in Table 1.
      Table 1Chemical composition of feeds fed during the study.
      Item, DM basisPasture, intensively managed
      Grass-legume mixture, 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% white clover.
      Turnips, tuber, and herbageChromium grain mix
      A mixture of barley and wheat (Winton Seed Precalving Close-Up Pellet, Winton Seed Co., Winton, New Zealand).
      Control grain mix
      A mixture of barley and wheat (Winton Seed Precalving Close-Up Pellet, Winton Seed Co., Winton, New Zealand).
      Mixed grass-legume silage
      Baled silage, mid maturity, consisting of 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% white clover.
      Wheat silage, early head
      CP, %24.714.412.111.720.310.4
      ADF, %22.313.310.08.225.132.8
      Ca, %1.860.791.491.161.510.44
      P, %0.410.320.420.440.360.22
      Mg, %0.360.170.810.630.320.14
      S, %0.180.510.190.190.200.15
      Fe, mg/kg186160443371168276
      Zn, mg/kg19234985391920
      Mn, mg/kg36182973713146
      Cu, mg/kg11314518196
      Cr, mg/kg0.80.75.81.11.02.2
      1 Grass-legume mixture, 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% white clover.
      2 A mixture of barley and wheat (Winton Seed Precalving Close-Up Pellet, Winton Seed Co., Winton, New Zealand).
      3 Baled silage, mid maturity, consisting of 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% white clover.
      Postcalving, grain supplementation was discontinued and treatments were individually delivered to cows via an oral drench once a day after the a.m. milking. The liquid drench was diluted with tap water so that a 20 mL dose delivered 6.25 mg of Cr from Cr Met. Several measures were taken to keep drenching errors to a minimum. First, one person was dedicated at each a.m. milking solely for drenching. Second, colored ear tags were used to identify the 2 groups. Third, cows were drenched once daily. Fourth, cow numbers were recorded once weekly to verify cows that were to be drenched were not being missed because of a lost ear tag. Fifth, only cows receiving the Cr treatment were drenched. As cows had been routinely drenched in the past, drenching was accepted by the cows with minimum discomfort and appeared to have minimal effect on animal behavior and performance.
      Control and treatment cows were managed as one group postpartum. Each day, control and treatment cows grazed in the same paddock, walked the same track between the milking parlor and paddock, and were milked during the same time period by the same dairy personnel. Cows were offered daily (DM basis) approximately 4 kg of wheat silage and ad libitum pasture. In late spring, cows were also given 0.5 to 1 kg of barley straw. No grain supplements were offered postcalving. Precalving and postcalving, treatment and control cows received daily 360 mg of Zn, 200 mg of Mn, 125 mg of Cu, and 12 mg of Co from complexed trace minerals (Availa4, Zinpro Corporation) and 300 mg of monensin (Rumensin, Elanco Animal Health, Indianapolis, IN). The allotted minerals and monensin were delivered to cows by metering the products into the drinking water using a nonelectrical proportional liquid dispenser (Dosatron, Dosatron International, Tresses, France). During the spring grazing season, cows also received bloat oil for the prevention of bloat.
      With the exception of the herd owner and the dairy manager, all individuals involved in the trial were blinded to treatment assignments, minimizing any potential bias of trial evaluators. Only after collection and analyses of trial data was completed were trial evaluators informed of treatment assignments by the herd owner and the dairy manager.

      Blood and Liver Sampling

      Twenty cows from each treatment group were randomly selected for blood and liver sampling. Blood samples were collected at dry off, 1 wk before expected calving and 1, 2, and 4 wk postcalving. Blood samples were obtained by venipuncture of the coccygeal vein during or immediately after the p.m. milking. Blood was collected into a 10-mL evacuated tube containing no anticoagulant and a 5-mL evacuated tube containing sodium heparin (Vacutainer, Becton Dickinson, Rutherford, NJ). Tubes containing anticoagulant were chilled (placed in insulated packs with ice during transit to the clinic, and refrigerated at the clinic until shipped later that day) and remained chilled (shipped in insulated packs with ice) during overnight transport to the laboratory (Alpha Scientific, Hamilton, New Zealand). At the laboratory, samples were placed in an ice bath until centrifuged at 3500 × g for 20 min at 5°C. An aliquot of plasma was removed and stored at 4°C until further analysis (within 24 h). Blood in tubes containing no additive was allowed to clot at ambient temperature (15 to 21°C), before being transported overnight to the laboratory (Alpha Scientific). At the laboratory, they were centrifuged (3500 × g for 10 min), and the serum stored at 4°C until further analysis (within 24 h). Samples were analyzed for plasma glucose concentrations and serum NEFA, insulin, and BHBA concentrations.
      Liver samples were collected from the same cows at dry off, 1 wk before expected calving, and 4 wk postcalving. Biopsies were performed with the cow standing in a cattle chute with its head secured in a metal yoke. A 5 × 5 cm square in the 10th or 11th intercostal space, one hand width below the transverse processes on the right flank, was shaved, disinfected with hibitane and iodine, and anesthetized with 10 mL of a 2% lidocaine solution. A 0.5-cm slit in the skin was made with a scalpel. Next, a liver biopsy trocar (length 20 cm, i.d. 4 mm) was inserted through the slit in the cranioventral direction. After puncturing the liver capsule, the inner portion of the trocar was removed, and a 1.5- to 2.5-cm liver sample was taken. Following the biopsy, skin incisions were dusted with a broad-spectrum antibiotic powder (Aureomycin, Fort Lee, NJ) to help prevent sepsis. Samples were placed in sterile tubes, chilled (shipped in insulated packs with ice), and transported overnight to the laboratory by courier. Samples were submitted (Alpha Scientific) for determination of Zn, Cu, Mn, and vitamin B12 concentration.

      Production and Reproduction Data

      Cows were milked twice daily. At 4 time points, at approximately 6-wk intervals, milk yield was determined and milk samples collected for determination of milk composition (Livestock Improvement Corp., Hamilton, New Zealand). Based upon measured milk production, milk composition, and DIM from known calving dates, total milk and milk solid production was calculated (Livestock Improvement Corp.). However, for statistical analysis of energy-corrected milk (ECM, 3.5% fat and 3.2% protein) and 3.5% FCM, actual data from the 4 milk tests performed by Livestock Improvement Corporation were used rather than estimating daily milk production using milk production totals and DIM.
      Reproductive management was done in accordance with standard operating procedures of the dairy. At 7 d before planned start of mating, cows that were not observed in estrus by dairy personnel following 3 wk of estrus detection were presented to the veterinarian for examination. Upon rectal palpation, cows that were deemed anestrus by dairy personnel, but had appropriate ovarian luteal tissue present were given 2 mL of prostaglandin (Estrumate, Schering Plough Animal Health, Auckland, New Zealand). Cows with no ovarian activity were given a progesterone-releasing vaginal implant (Cue-Mate, Pfizer Animal Health, Auckland, New Zealand). Cows with adhesions or scarring of the reproductive tract were not treated. Any cow diagnosed with endometritis by rectal or vaginal palpation was given an intrauterine infusion of 500 mg of cephapirin (Metricure, Intervet, New Zealand).
      After 6 d, the progesterone-releasing vaginal implant was removed. The following day, cows were given 1 mg of estradiol benzoate (Cidirol Bomac Laboratories, Manuka City, Auckland, New Zealand) intramuscularly.
      All cows were bred (by AI) upon detected estrus for the first 7 wk of the mating season. Cows deemed in estrus at the a.m. milking were sorted from the herd and bred following the a.m. milking. Cows deemed in estrus at the p.m. milking were sorted from the herd and bred following the p.m. milking. After the first 7 wk of the mating season, AI breeding was discontinued, and beef bulls were introduced to the herd. Beef bulls remained with the herd for 6 wk. Following removal of the beef bulls from the herd, cows were checked for pregnancy using rectal ultrasound to assess pregnancy rates in the first 28 and 44 d of the breeding period. Cows were checked again 6 wk later using rectal ultrasound to determine pregnancy rates in the first 60 d of the breeding period and to confirm final pregnancy rates.

      Statistical Analyses

      Statistical analyses were performed on the 3 sets of outcome data: blood and liver data, milk production data, and reproductive data. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL) and NCSS (NCSS, Kaysville, UT). Power analyses were performed using PASS (NCSS), and Power and Precision (Biostat, Englewood, NJ).
      Analysis of blood and liver data were performed using 2-tailed t-tests and ANOVA of SPSS. Effects included in analysis of the blood data were sample collected before treatment administration (covariate), time, treatment, and time × treatment interaction with the individual cow as the random effect and treatment group as a fixed effect. Effects included in analysis of the liver data were sample collected before treatment administration (covariate) and treatment.
      Production data was analyzed using the univariate ANOVA procedure of SPSS. Effects included in analysis of the lactation data included age, previous production, DIM, and treatment with the individual cow as the random effect, treatment group, and age as the fixed effects, and DIM and its polynomials (DIM, DIM2) as covariates. Repeated measures were run by nesting the individual cow-age group interaction in treatment group.
      Dichotomous outcomes (in calf rates, anestrus, and Cue-mate usage) were analyzed using χ2. The planned start of mating to conception interval was analyzed using Kaplan Meier survival curves. Kaplan Meier curves were produced for each postulated risk factor (treatment group, age, anestrus, and calving to planned start of mating interval). The calving to planned start of mating interval was dichotomized to ≤42 or >42 d. Culled cows were treated as censored on the day the cow left the herd; nonpregnant cows were censored on the last day of 122-d observation period. A log-rank test for difference among groups was performed. A pooled log-rank test across strata was used when single strata were examined and specific log rank statistics were used when multiple strata were examined. Effects with a P < 0.20 were included in the final Cox model.
      Significant treatment effects were noted at P ≤ 0.05, and trends were noted at P > 0.05 and ≤ 0.10.

      Results and Discussion

      Liver and Blood Profiles

      There was no effect (P > 0.10) of Cr supplementation on Zn, Mn, Cu, and vitamin B12 content of liver (Table 2). Cows had adequate Mn, Cu, and vitamin B12 status at 1 wk precalving and 1 mo postcalving (
      • Puls R.
      Mineral Levels in Animal Health.
      ). Zinc status of treatment and control cows was adequate at 1 wk precalving and marginal to adequate at 1 mo postcalving (
      • Puls R.
      Mineral Levels in Animal Health.
      ). The reduction in Zn status in early lactation is reflective of a lower Zn content in spring pasture than the turnips fed in late lactation(Table 1) and lactation creating a higher Zn requirement than pregnancy (
      National Research Council
      Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle.
      ).
      Table 2Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of chromium
      MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on zinc, manganese, copper, and vitamin B12 content of liver.
      Liver constituent, mg/kg of DMControlChromiumSEM
      One week precalving
       Zn111.3102.72.0
       Mn9.39.30.3
       Cu17516817
       Vitamin B123.33.40.1
      One month postcalving
       Zn80.779.73.3
       Mn12.312.30.3
       Cu15515416
       Vitamin B124.34.10.1
      1 MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      Due to more than 60% of the serum samples having insulin concentrations below the detection limit of 1 pmol/L, serum insulin values are not reported. Late-gestation and early-lactation cattle fed preserved forages and grain typically have serum insulin levels that range from 14 to over 100 pmol/L (
      ;
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;
      • Holtenius K.
      • Agenas S.
      • Delavaud C.
      • Chilliard Y.
      Effects of feeding intensity during the dry period. 2. Metabolic and hormonal responses.
      ). Serum insulin levels tend to decline from late gestation into lactation (
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;
      • Holtenius K.
      • Agenas S.
      • Delavaud C.
      • Chilliard Y.
      Effects of feeding intensity during the dry period. 2. Metabolic and hormonal responses.
      ). Low serum insulin concentrations in this study may be due to analytical technique, sample handling and processing, or cattle consuming diets low in NFC. New Zealand dairy cattle typically consume diets that contain approximately 20% nonstructural carbohydrates (
      • Kolver E.S.
      • de Veth M.J.
      Prediction of ruminal pH from pasture-based diets.
      ), and serum insulin concentrations are commonly less than 1 pmol/L (personal communication, Roger Ellison, Alpha Scientific, Hamilton, New Zealand).
      There was no effect of treatment (P > 0.10) on serum BHBA and plasma glucose concentrations (Table 3). Chromium supplementation reduced (P ≤ 0.05) serum NEFA concentrations by 10.6% (Table 3). Reduced NEFA concentration was previously observed in response to Cr supplementation (
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      ;
      • DePew C.L.
      • Bunting L.D.
      • Fernandez J.M.
      • Thompson Jr., D.L.
      • Adkinson R.W.
      Performance and metabolic responses of young dairy calves supplemented with chromium tripicolinate.
      ;
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ). Reduced blood NEFA concentration in response to Cr supplementation may be partially attributed to reduced blood cortisol levels (
      • Chang X.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Supplemental chromium for stressed and growing feeder calves.
      ;
      • Moonsie-Shageer S.
      • Mowat D.N.
      Effect of level of supplemental chromium on performance, serum constituents, and immune status of stressed feeder calves.
      ;
      • Almeida L.
      • Barajas R.
      Effect of Cr-methionine level supplementation on immune response of bull claves recently arrived to feedlot.
      ), as cortisol acts antagonistically to insulin, reducing glucose uptake by peripheral tissue (
      • Burton J.L.
      Supplemental chromium: Its benefits to the bovine immune system.
      ). Reduced glucose uptake by peripheral tissue results in increased mobilization of body tissue as the animal attempts to fulfill its energy needs (
      • Munck A.
      • Guyre P.
      • Holbrook N.
      Physiological functions of glucocorticoids in stress and their relation to pharmacological actions.
      ).
      Table 3Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of chromium
      MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on blood metabolite concentration.
      Item, mmol/LControlChromiumSEM
      Plasma
       Glucose2.893.010.04
      Serum
      β-hydroxybutyrate0.720.670.02
       Nonesterified fatty acids
      Time×treatment interaction, P≤0.05.
      0.68
      LS means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P = 0.05).
      0.50
      LS means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P = 0.05).
      0.05
      a Time × treatment interaction, P ≤ 0.05.
      b,c LS means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P = 0.05).
      1 MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      The effect of treatment on serum NEFA was not consistent across time (time × treatment interaction, P ≤ 0.05; Figure 1). Chromium supplementation reduced serum NEFA concentrations at wk 1 prepartum, but not at wk 1, 2, and 4 postpartum. Similarly,
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      observed that Cr supplementation reduced plasma NEFA concentration at d 10 prepartum, but not at d 21 or 28 postpartum.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of Cr, from Cr Met, from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on serum NEFA concentration. Time × treatment interaction, P ≤ 0.05. SEM = 0.05.

      Lactation Data

      There was no effect of treatment (P > 0.10) on yield of milk, ECM, 3.5% fat-corrected milk, milk components, and milk composition (Table 4). In contrast, feeding 250 to 800 ppb of supplemental Cr from organic sources increased milk production between 2.3 and 14.9% (
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      ;
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;

      Smith, K. L. 2004. Effects of prepartum carbohydrate source and chromium supplementation in dairy cows during the periparturient period. M.S. Thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

      ). It should be noted that
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      observed that the milk-yield response to supplemental Cr was quadratic. Cows fed 0.06 mg of Cr/kg BW0.75 (447 ppb for a 635-kg cow consuming 17 kg of DM) produced 5.0 kg more milk than control cows, whereas cows fed 0.12 mg of Cr/kg BW0.75 (894 ppb for a 635-kg cow consuming 17 kg of DM) actually produced 1.7 kg/d less milk than control cows. These studies indicate that oversupplementing with Cr can have negative effects on animal performance. In this study, average BW of cows was 514 kg. Supplementing cows with 6.25 mg/d of Cr from Cr Met equated to 0.058 mg of Cr/kg BW0.75.
      Table 4Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of chromium
      MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on lactation performance.
      MeasurementControlChromiumSEM
      Milk, kg/d26.726.00.4
      Energy-corrected milk,
      Energy-corrected milk = 3.5% fat and 3.2% protein.
      kg/d
      32.431.40.5
      3.5% FCM, kg/d29.228.20.4
      Milk fat, kg/d1.091.040.18
      Milk protein, kg/d0.940.920.18
      Milk solids,
      Solids = fat + protein.
      kg/d
      2.031.960.03
      Milk fat, %5.375.310.25
      Milk protein, %4.634.690.25
      1 MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      2 Energy-corrected milk = 3.5% fat and 3.2% protein.
      3 Solids = fat + protein.
      In studies where increases in milk production have been observed, increases in postpartum DMI have also been observed (
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      ;

      Smith, K. L. 2004. Effects of prepartum carbohydrate source and chromium supplementation in dairy cows during the periparturient period. M.S. Thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

      ). It would seem logical that DMI would increase when milk production increases, especially considering body tissue mobilization, as indicated by a reduction in blood NEFA, is reduced with Cr supplementation. Reduced body tissue mobilization would provide less energy to sustain milk production (
      National Research Council
      Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle.
      ).
      Dry matter intake was not measured in this study due to the difficulty in determining intake of cattle while grazing. Failure of Cr to elicit a production response in this trial may have resulted from restricted energy intake. This herd was in the top 5% of herds in New Zealand for production (more than 450 kg of milk solids produced per cow annually) and received daily only 0.5 to 1 kg of straw and 4 kg of wheat silage in addition to ad libitum pasture. In addition, the ability to increase pasture intake was limited during the summer months of the trial period as rainfall was below average, limiting pasture growth.
      The only indicator of postpartum body tissue mobilization measured in this study was serum NEFA, and it was not affected by treatment in the postpartum period (Figure 1). Body condition and weight were not assessed, so it is only speculation that cows fed Cr lost less BW in this study and that this is coupled with the inability to increase DMI resulted in chromium supplementation failing to elicit a production response.
      • Hayirli A.
      • Bremmer D.R.
      • Bertics S.J.
      • Socha M.T.
      • Grummer R.R.
      Effect of chromium supplementation on production and metabolic parameters in periparturient dairy cows.
      found that even though Cr supplementation had no effect on postpartum blood NEFA concentration, Cr supplementation tended to reduce loss of body condition in the postpartum period. Similarly,

      Smith, K. L. 2004. Effects of prepartum carbohydrate source and chromium supplementation in dairy cows during the periparturient period. M.S. Thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

      found that Cr supplementation had no effect on postpartum blood NEFA concentration, but cows supplemented with Cr had higher postpartum BW. Prepartum, there was no difference in BW, indicating that cows supplemented with Cr were mobilizing less body tissue in the postpartum period.

      Reproduction Data

      The dairy producer had visually observed more (P ≤ 0.05) noncycling cows in the supplemented group than in the control group (Table 5; 45.5 vs. 32.0%). Upon rectal palpation, however, a greater proportion of Cr-supplemented cows that were deemed anestrus by dairy personnel had ovarian activity than control cows, thus there was no effect (P > 0.10) of treatment on usage of progesterone-releasing vaginal implants.
      Table 5Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of chromium
      MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on reproductive performance.
      MeasurementControlChromiumχ2
      Anestrus cows,
      Cows visually observed by dairy personnel to be noncycling at 7 d before planned start of mating.
      %
      32.0
      Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P≤0.05).
      45.5
      Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P≤0.05).
      5.188
      Progesterone-secreting vaginal implant usage,
      Given to cows determined by rectal palpation to have no ovarian activity.
      %
      17.623.91.627
      28-d pregnancy rate, %39.2
      Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P≤0.10).
      50.0
      Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P≤0.10).
      3.050
      44-d pregnancy rate, %54.461.21.225
      60-d pregnancy rate, %71.273.10.121
      a,b Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P ≤ 0.05).
      c,d Means lacking a common superscript letter differ (P ≤ 0.10).
      1 MiCroPlex chromium-l-methionine.
      2 Cows visually observed by dairy personnel to be noncycling at 7 d before planned start of mating.
      3 Given to cows determined by rectal palpation to have no ovarian activity.
      Chromium supplemented cows tended to have a higher (P ≤ 0.10) 28-d pregnancy rate than control cows (Table 5; 50.0 vs. 39.2%). There was no difference in 44- and 60-d pregnancy rates, although numerically, cows supplemented with Cr had a greater percentage of cows pregnant in the first 44- and 60-d of the mating (Table 5; 61.2 and 73.1 vs. 54.4 and 71.2%).
      Anestrus cows and cows with a calving to planned start of mating interval ≤ 42 d tended to have a lower risk of conception (P ≤ 0.10). None of the other putative risk factors influenced planned start of mating to conception interval. Thus a Cox proportional hazards model was not justified. The median days from planned start of mating to conception were 38 and 27 d for control and Cr supplemented cows, respectively, and was not influenced (P > 0.10) by treatment (Figure 2). However, the variation in intervals from start of planned mating to conception tended to be less for Cr supplemented cows, in particular the 3-yr-old cows as indicated by box-plot analysis (Figure 3).
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Effect of supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of Cr, from Cr Met, from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on interval from planned start of mating to conception. Kaplan Meier survival curve analysis, P > 0.10, logistic rank test statistic 0.35.
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Boxplot analysis of the effect of age and supplementing dairy cattle with 6.25 mg of chromiuma from 6 wk prepartum to 21 wk postpartum on interval from planned start of mating to conception. The lower and upper ± 1.5 quartile are indicated by the whiskers, the lower and upper ends of the boxes indicate the 25th and 75th quartiles, and the line across the middle of the box identifies the median sample value.
      These results suggest that Cr may help mitigate the effects of anestrus on fertility of cows early in the breeding season. Another plausible explanation is that there was a greater failure rate in observing estrus in the Cr-supplemented cows, resulting in a greater portion of supplemented cows being incorrectly classified as an-estrus.
      Data showing a positive effect of Cr supplementation on reproduction is limited.
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      found that 14 of the 17 Cr supplemented cows conceived during or after the trial, whereas 12 of the 17 control cows conceived during the same period.
      • Yang W.Z.
      • Mowat D.N.
      • Subiyatno A.
      • Liptrap R.M.
      Effects of chromium supplementation on early lactation performance of Holstein cows.
      also found that Cr-supplemented cows averaged, numerically, 9 fewer days open than control cows.
      In swine, the effect of Cr supplementation has been studied more extensively and a common response to Cr supplementation is increased litter sizes (
      • Lindemann M.D.
      • Wood C.M.
      • Harper A.F.
      • Kornegay E.T.
      • Anderson R.A.
      Dietary chromium picolinate additions improve gain:feed and carcass characteristics in growing-finishing pigs and increase litter size in reproducing sows.
      ;
      • Hagen C.D.
      • Lindemann M.D.
      • Purser K.W.
      Dietary chromium tripicolinate increases sow productivity under commercial conditions.
      ). The proposed mechanism for Cr increasing litter size is increased insulin sensitivity. Insulin stimulates granulose cell proliferation (
      • Spicer L.J.
      • Echternkamp S.E.
      The ovarian and insulin-like growth factor system with an emphasis on domestic animals.
      ) and reduces follicular atresia (
      • Matamoros I.A.
      • Cox N.M.
      • Moore A.B.
      Exogenous insulin and additional energy affect follicular distribution, follicular steroid concentrations, and granulosa cell human chorionic gonadotropin binding in swine.
      ). In addition, insulin has been shown to increase ovulation rates in pigs (
      • Cox N.M.
      • Stuart M.J.
      • Athen T.G.
      • Bennett W.A.
      • Miller H.W.
      Enhancement of ovulation rate in gilts by increasing dietary energy and administering insulin during follicular growth.
      ;
      • Flowers B.
      • Martin M.J.
      • Cantley T.C.
      • Day B.N.
      Endocrine changes associated with a dietary-induced increase in ovulation rate (flushing) in gilts.
      ) potentially by affecting LH release from the hypothalamus or pituitary gland (
      • Flowers B.
      • Martin M.J.
      • Cantley T.C.
      • Day B.N.
      Endocrine changes associated with a dietary-induced increase in ovulation rate (flushing) in gilts.
      ).
      Getting cows pregnant in the first 60 d of mating is critical due to the seasonality of the New Zealand dairy industry. Cows that conceive late are induced to calve resulting in economic loss due to reduced lactation performance and increased risk of retained placentas, milk fever, and loss of a potentially viable calf.

      Conclusions

      Results of this study indicate that supplementing intensively grazed cattle with Cr did not improve lactation performance. The exact reason for lack of response needs to be investigated further. Chromium supplementation showed a trend toward improved reproduction as indicated by increased percentage of cows pregnant in the first 28 d of the mating season. Supplementing intensively grazed cattle with Cr reduced blood NEFA concentrations precalving but not postcalving.

      Acknowledgments

      Appreciation is extended to John and Teresa van Hout and staff for their dedication in carrying out the trial protocol.

      Supplementary data

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