In two experiments, 165 dairy cows were allotted to groups given post-partum diets ad libitum containing either 150 g (LP) or 190 to 200 g (HP) crude protein (CP) per kg dry matter (DM).
In experiment 1, which lasted 21 weeks after calving, cows were given pre-partum two amounts of energy (National Research Council (NRC) recommended amount v. 1·4 × NRC recommended amount). Pre-partum amounts of energy did not affect DM intake, milk yield or milk composition. Protein intake, including that for maintenance, was 84 and 116 g CP per kg milk in the LP and HP groups, respectively.
During 2 to 6 weeks after calving the HP concentration in a diet containing 850 g concentrates and 150 g hay per kg, decreased DM intake, whereas in a diet containing 650 g concentrates and 350 g hay per kg, the HP concentration increased DM intake. During weeks 12 to 21 after calving, the HP concentration decreased milk yield from 33·0 to 28·7 kg and increased milk fat concentration from 24·1 to 29·3 g/kg. Rumen fluid ammonia-N concentrations were 135 and 200 mg/1 in cows given the LP and HP diet, respectively. Plasma urea-N concentrations were 114 and 172 mg/1 in the same groups, respectively.
In experiment 2, three groups of cows were given, during 15 weeks after calving, diets LP, HP and HP containing soya-bean meal treated with formaldehyde (HPSP). Protein intake, including that for maintenance, was 71, 82 and 86 g CP per kg milk in the three groups, respectively. Mean daily milk yields during 15 weeks after calving were 37·5, 39·2 and 39·3 kg in groups LP, HP and HPSP, respectively. Cows given the LP and HP diets lost, after parturition, 22·5 kg body weight, whereas cows given the HPSP diet lost only 6·0 kg. Rumen fluid ammonia-N concentrations were 95, 175 and 81 mg/1 and plasma urea-N concentrations were 80, 200 and 143 mg/1 in cows given the LP, HP and HPSP diets, respectively. It is concluded that on certain diets high-yielding dairy cows can be given, in addition to that for maintenance, as little as 60 g CP per kg milk. Formaldehyde-treated soya-bean meal may increase milk yield during the first 3 weeks after calving, and reduce body weight loss.