This study compared the effects of two levels of crude protein (CP) supplementation during a close-up dry period on the productive performance, nitrogen balance, and blood profiles of Holstein cows. Eighteen cows (8 primigravid and 10 multiparous), 21 days prior to calving, were divided into four groups and fed a diet containing a low (11.5 to 12.7% CP) or high (14.1 to 15.3% CP) level of protein. Following parturition, all cows were offered the same diet. Nitrogen balance was measured 12 d to 10d prior to the expected calving date. Whole feces and urine were collected. The higher close-up CP did not improve milk production during the early lactation period (14 w) in multiparous cows but tended to increase production by 2 kg of milk per day in primigravid cows. There were no differences in the weight of calves, the weight of the placenta, or the incidence of calving difficulty. Nitrogen intake, urine nitrogen and nitrogen retention were increased by the higher CP diet in primigravid and multiparous cows. All groups of cows showed a positive nitrogen balance. In particular, higher nitrogen retention was observed in primigravid cows fed the higher CP diet. With the exception of plasma urea nitrogen (PUN), non of the blood profiles were influenced by the CP level. The higher close-up CP increased the PUN during the period studied in primigravid and multiparous cows. These results indicate that a CP level of 14% during a close-up dry period is optimal for primigravid cows, and 12% CP level is sufficient for multiparous cows.
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