The functionality of circulating leukocytes in dairy cows is suppressed after calving, with negative energy balance as a risk factor. Leukocyte transcriptomic profiles were compared separately in 44 multiparous (MP) and 18 primiparous (PP) Holstein–Friesian cows receiving diets differing in concentrate proportion to test whether immune dysfunction could be mitigated by appropriate nutrition. After calving, cows were offered either (1) low concentrate (LC); (2) medium concentrate (MC) or (3) high concentrate (HC) diets with proportions of concentrate to grass silage of 30%:70%, 50%:50% and 70%:30%, respectively. Cow phenotype data collected included circulating metabolites, milk yield and health and fertility records. RNA sequencing of circulating leukocytes at 14 days in milk was performed. The HC diet improved energy balance in both age groups. There were more differentially expressed genes in PP than MP cows (460 vs. 173, HC vs. LC comparison) with few overlaps. The MP cows on the LC diet showed upregulation of the complement and coagulation cascade and innate immune defence mechanisms against pathogens and had a trend of more cases of mastitis and poorer fertility. In contrast, the PP cows on the HC diet showed greater immune responses based on both gene expression and phenotypic data and longer interval of calving to conception. The leukocytes of MP and PP cows therefore responded differentially to the diets between age, nutrient supply and immunity affecting their health and subsequent fertility.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (EU FP7, Brussels, Belgium) for research, technological development, and demonstration under grant agreement no. 613689 (GplusE). The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.
© 2022 by the authors.
- innate immunity
- lactation diets
- postpartum immunosuppression