The effects of dry period omission on oxidative stress and metabolic indicators around calving were studied. Seventeen Italian Friesian cows were randomly assigned to two groups, homogeneous for milk yield and parity, and managed either with a traditional 55-d dry off period (n=8) or continuously milked till parturition (n=9). Between 60 d before expected calving and 90 d after calving, body condition (BCS) was recorded and blood samples were collected to measure cortisol, urea, cholesterol, glucose, NEFA, triglycerides, insulin, malondialdehyde (MDA), total glutathione (GSH) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity. BCS changes after calving were not different between the two groups. The normally dried group showed lower (P<0·05) glucose concentrations on day 7 before calving, greater (P<0·01) non-esterified fatty acid concentrations at 7 d and 15 d after calving, and greater (P<0·01) triglyceride concentrations for all the period before calving. On the other hand, plasma MDA was not different between groups. On average, plasma GSH concentrations were greater in continuously milked cows after calving (P<0·05), while plasma GPx was greater with continuous milking up to parturition (P<0·01). The results confirmed that omitting the dry period leads to an improved energy balance. The degree of oxidative stress was not detrimental for animal health, and the slight modifications of GPx observed prepartum were possibly related to continuous milk secretion. The differences in plasma GSH observed after calving may depend upon sulphur amino acid sparing in continuously milked cows.
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