Vitamin B12 is synthesised in the rumen from cobalt (Co) and has a major role in metabolism in the peri-paturient period, although few studies have evaluated the effect of the dietary inclusion of Co, vitamin B12 or injecting vitamin B12 on the metabolism, health and performance of high yielding dairy cows. A total of 56 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows received one of four treatments from 8 weeks before calving to 8 weeks post-calving: C, no added Co; DC, additional 0.2 mg Co/kg dry matter (DM); DB, additional 0.68 mg vitamin B12/kg DM; IB, intra-muscular injection of vitamin B12 to supply 0.71 mg/cow per day prepartum and 1.42 mg/cow per day post-partum. The basal and lactation rations both contained 0.21 mg Co/kg DM. Cows were weighed and condition scored at drying off, 4 weeks before calving, within 24 h of calving and at 2, 4 and 8 weeks post-calving, with blood samples collected at drying off, 2 weeks pre-calving, calving and 2, 4 and 8 weeks post-calving. Liver biopsy samples were collected from all animals at drying off and 4 weeks post-calving. Live weight changed with time, but there was no effect of treatment (P>0.05), whereas cows receiving IB had the lowest mean body condition score and DB the highest (P<0.05). There was no effect of treatment on post-partum DM intake, milk yield or milk fat concentration (P>0.05) with mean values of 21.6 kg/day, 39.6 kg/day and 40.4 g/kg, respectively. Cows receiving IB had a higher plasma vitamin B12 concentration than those receiving any of the other treatments (P<0.001), but there was no effect (P>0.05) of treatment on homocysteine or succinate concentrations, although mean plasma methylmalonic acid concentrations were lower (P=0.019) for cows receiving IB than for Control cows. Plasma β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations increased sharply at calving followed by a decline, but there was no effect of treatment. Similarly, there was no effect (P>0.05) of treatment on plasma non-esterified fatty acids or glucose. Whole tract digestibility of DM and fibre measured at week 7 of lactation were similar between treatments, and there was little effect of treatment on the milk fatty acid profile except for C15:0, which was lower in cows receiving DC than IB (P<0.05). It is concluded that a basal dietary concentration of 0.21 mg Co/kg DM is sufficient to meet the requirements of high yielding dairy cows during the transition period, and there is little benefit from additional Co or vitamin B12.