Effects of a Change from an Indoor-Based Total Mixed Ration to a Rotational Pasture System Combined with a Moderate Concentrate Feed Supply on Immunological Cell and Blood Parameters of Dairy Cows
In spring, transition from a total mixed ration (TMR) to a full grazing ration with moderate concentrate supply influences cow’s metabolism. It has been shown that feeding moderate amounts of concentrate during fulltime grazing did not prevent energy shortage and lipomobilization, alterations in energy metabolism, decreasing milk production and loss in body weight. As diet change and energy balance are closely related to immune reactivity, in this trial the effect of transition to pasture on specific immune parameters of cows was documented. Over a 12-week trial 43 dairy cows were observed during transition from confinement to pasture (PG; n = 22) and compared to cows fed TMR indoor (CG; n = 21). The CG stayed on a TMR based ration (35% corn silage, 35% grass silage, 30% concentrate; dry matter (DM) basis), whereas the PG slowly switched to a pasture -based ration (week 0 and 1 = TMR, week 2 = TMR and 3 h pasture·day−1, week 3 and 4 = TMR and 12 h pasture·day−1, and week 5 to 11 = pasture combined with 4.5 kg DM concentrate·cow−1·day−1). Inflammatory markers like blood haptoglobin or tryptophan to kynurenine ratio did not indicate acute phase reaction. Proportions of CD4+ (T-helper cells) and CD8+ cells (cytotoxic T-cells) remained uninfluenced as well. White blood cell concentration and its subpopulation of granulocytes increased over time in the PG. Stimulation ability of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to mount an oxidative burst significantly increased during the trial, too. The endogenous antioxidant state as characterized by glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in blood of the PG did not change, whereas the vitamin E concentration reached the highest level at the end of the trial. The 25-CHO metabolites of vitamin D increased as soon as the PG had pasture access, whereas the other metabolite 25-ERG decreased. The results of this study indicate that transition to pasture affects immune related parameters. However, the consequences of the observed effects on health status of the pasture group need to be clarified in further studies with a defined concurrent immune challenge.