The aim of this study was to examine the effect of β-carotene supply during the close-up dry period on the onset of first postpartum luteal activity in dairy cows. Twelve cows were supplied with 2000 mg of β-carotene (20 g Rovimix(®) β-Carotene containing 10% β-carotene; DSM Nutrition Japan K.K., Tokyo, Japan) by oral administration daily from day 21 before expected calving date to parturition. Fourteen cows (control) did not receive β-carotene supplementation. Blood samples were obtained on days 21, 14 and 7 before expected calving date and on days 1, 7, 14, 21 postpartum. When the plasma progesterone concentration exceeded 1 ng/ml by day 21 postpartum, luteal activity was assumed to have been initiated. The result showed that serum β-carotene concentrations in the β-carotene cows were higher than in the control cows during the experimental period (p < 0.01). The number of cows with the onset of luteal activity by day 21 postpartum was 9/12 in the β-carotene cows and 4/14 in the control cows (p < 0.05). Retinol, certain metabolic parameters and metabolic hormones concentrations did not differ between β-carotene and control cows. In addition, serum retinol concentration in β-carotene cows without luteal activity was lower than in β-carotene cows with luteal activity (p < 0.05), and serum gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase concentration in β-carotene cows with luteal activity (p < 0.05) and control cows without luteal activity (p < 0.01) was higher than in control cows with luteal activity. In conclusion, β-carotene supply during the close-up dry period may support the onset of luteal activity during early lactation in dairy cows.
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