We evaluated the lactation performance, liver lipid content and plasma metabolites indicating the energy balance of dairy cows supplemented with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) pre- and post-partum (PP) vs. only PP. A total of 60 cows were divided into three groups (n = 20). Daily diet of cows was supplemented with 14 g of CLA (7 g cis-9, trans-11 and 7 g trans-10, cis-12 isomers) from week 3 before the expected date of calving (group CLA1), or from the day of calving (group CLA2) until 77-91 days PP. Control cows were fed an isocaloric, isonitrogenous and isolipidic diet without CLA. Between week 3 and week 6 PP, the milk yield of cows in both CLA-treated groups was approximately 4.5 kg higher (p < 0.05) than in control. Milk fat concentrations decreased from week 3 and were lower in both CLA groups than in control (p < 0.01). Body condition score loss was lower (p < 0.05) in the CLA1 than in the control group on week 5 PP. By week 11 PP, the body condition of both CLA1 and CLA2 groups exceeded that of control. Plasma non-esterified fatty acid was lower in CLA1 compared to CLA2 and control during the early PP period (p < 0.05), while this difference faded away by the late PP period. Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) increased rapidly in all groups following calving. In CLA1 group, it began to decrease sooner than in CLA2 and control. The prevalence of subclinical ketosis (BHBA > 1.2 mm) was lower in CLA1 group than in CLA2 and control (p < 0.05). Liver biopsy analyses showed that CLA1 treatment decreased (p < 0.05) the total lipid content of liver compared to control at week 5 after calving. Our results show that CLA supplementation is more efficient in alleviating body mass mobilization and decreasing the incidence of subclinical ketosis when applied as early as 3 weeks before calving than started feeding after calving.