Linking Nutrition and Uterine Health
Apr 11, 2011
Proper ration formulation with Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids can help reduce the incidence of endometritis.
By Dr. Elliot Block, Senior Manager, Technology, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition
A healthy uterus after calving lays the groundwork for successful future reproductive performance. As one of the biggest challenges to dairy producers, uterine diseases are costly and can have a long-term impact on how well cows join the milking string and get bred in subsequent lactations.
The prevalence of and financial losses related to uterine diseases, like metritis, are staggering. Research1 has shown that one case of metritis can cost the dairy as much as $354, and subclinical endometritis can impact as much as 20% of the herd.
While monitoring onset of metritis can help identify new cases early, subclinical cases often go unnoticed2. The most successful way to handle both subclinical and clinical cases of the disease is to proactively prevent the uterine disease altogether.
One proven tool to help reduce the incidence of endometritis is through proper ration formulation with Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs).
Rumen bypass sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs deliver these nutrients to the small intestine where they can be absorbed and utilized for reproductive health. Research3 conducted by the University of Arizona compared the reproductive health and performance between cows fed a control diet versus cows fed EFAs in the treatment diet. Both diets were fed three weeks prepartum through confirmed pregnancy.
• Clinical cases of metritis were seen in 4.5% of control cows versus zero animals in the treatment group.
• 56% of cows in the control group were diagnosed with endometritis versus 19% in the treatment group. That’s a 66% reduction for the cows fed EFAs!
Based on the number of clinical and subclinical cases diagnosed in both groups, researchers concluded that feeding EFAs improved uterine health by decreasing the incidence of endometritis.
A healthier herd is also able to cycle and conceive earlier. In the same study researchers found cows fed Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs:
- Returned to normal ovarian activity faster. Cows fed Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs resumed cyclicity earlier and experienced more ovulatory cycles by 60 days in milk (DIM).
- Experienced more pregnancies sooner. 70% of cows fed Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs were confirmed pregnant by 175 DIM, while only 40% of the control group was pregnant.
A properly formulated ration harnessing the benefits of EFAs can help reduce the incidence of metritis, leading to reduced vet costs, increased milk production and improved pregnancy rates, translating to healthier cattle for maximized on-farm profitability.
1 Overton M, Fetrow J. “Metritis Costs Us a Bundle.” Hoard’s Dairyman. July 2010; p. 471.
2 Overton M. Managing and monitoring fresh cows for improved reproductive success. Presentation, 2010 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Meeting; slide 9.
3 Bowen AJ. The Effects of Dietary Linoleic and Linolenic Acids on Reproductive Performance in Holstein Cows. [Master’s thesis]. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona; 2008.