Good health is essential for good performance and the welfare of dairy cows, and nutrition is an important component of good health. Health is influenced by the interaction between the innate adaptive components of the immune system and other factors, such as the local and systemic inflammatory response, which can sometimes be more harmful than useful. Therefore, for dairy cows, particularly those in the periparturient period, it is important to avoid, or reduce as much as possible, any kind of infectious, parasitic or metabolic disease and the associated inflammation. Such inflammation can impair cow performance by lowering milk yield, dry matter intake, fertility and energy efficiency, and can reduce liver function. Good nutrition is essential in maintaining a functional immune system, while also avoiding other causes of inflammation, such as tissue damage, and digestive and metabolic syndrome-related disorders. Provision of appropriate nutrients, such as antioxidants, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and vitamin D can have anti-inflammatory effects. In the future, ways to reduce inflammation while maintaining a good immune defence must be developed and the susceptibility of the cow to diseases and inflammation evaluated. Ideally, we would be able to selectively breed for cows with a lower susceptibility to both diseases and inflammation.
- dairy cow
- transition period