Stockfeeds feature | Essential nutrient for cows

The bioavailability of dietary choline is a crucial consideration for dairy cow nutrition. Photo by Geoff Adams

Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a pivotal role in various physiological processes in dairy cows.

It is integral to the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, two critical components of cell membranes, which underscores its importance in maintaining cellular structure and function.

Moreover, choline serves as a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the modulation of neural activity and muscle function.

In the context of dairy cows, choline is particularly significant due to its involvement in hepatic lipid metabolism.

During periods of high metabolic demand, such as the transition from late gestation to early lactation, cows are prone to negative energy balance and excessive mobilisation of body fat reserves.

This can lead to the accumulation of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) in the liver, potentially resulting in hepatic lipidosis, commonly known as fatty liver disease.

Choline mitigates this risk by promoting the export of triglycerides from the liver as very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs), thereby preventing the pathological accumulation of lipids.

The bioavailability of dietary choline is a crucial consideration for dairy cow nutrition.

Ruminants face the unique challenge of rumen microbial degradation, which can significantly reduce the efficacy of orally administered choline.

To circumvent this, choline is supplemented in a protected form, such as rumen-protected choline (RPC), which ensures its delivery to the small intestine where it can be absorbed more efficiently.

Once absorbed, choline is transported via the bloodstream to various tissues where it participates in critical metabolic pathways.

Furthermore, choline's role extends to the support of reproductive health and lactation performance.

Adequate choline supplementation has been shown to enhance dry matter intake (DMI), milk yield, improve milk composition and overall fertility by optimising the metabolic efficiency and health status of dairy cows.

This is attributed to choline's influence on energy metabolism, which ensures that sufficient resources are allocated to milk production and maintenance of overall physiological function.

CholiGEM from Kemin Industries stands out with a 60 per cent choline chloride concentration — significantly higher than the typical 28 per cent currently available on the market.

This higher content ensures a more flexible diet formulation during the critical transition period.

Its superior bioavailability supports reducing fatty liver risks and ketosis occurrences, thereby enhancing overall dairy cow wellbeing pre- and post-calving.

In summary, choline is an indispensable nutrient for dairy cows, essential for cellular integrity, hepatic lipid metabolism and overall metabolic health.

Its supplementation, particularly in a rumen-protected form, is vital in optimising the health and productivity of dairy cows, especially during the critical transition period surrounding parturition, having real impacts on DMI, milk yield and fertility.

– Matt Bastian

Ruminant manager with Kemin Industries Australia & New Zealand