Publications

Effect of different dry period lengths on milk production and somatic cell count in subsequent lactation on commercial Dutch dairy herds.

Steeneveld, W.; Schukken, Y.H.; Knegsel, A.T.M. van; Hogeveen, H.

Summary

Shortening the dry period (DP) has been proposed as a management strategy to improve energy balance in early lactation. It is well known that both shortening and complete omission of the DP reduces milk production in the subsequent lactations. In most of these studies milk production data were obtained from planned animal experiments where cows were randomly assigned to DP length treatments, and cow management and diet composition did not differ among treatments. It may therefore be hypothesized that cows on commercial herds which apply a no-DP or short-DP-strategy, and support this by management adjustments, will have a less dramatic reduction in milk production. In this study, milk production and somatic cell count (SCC) following different DP lengths was investigated under commercial circumstances. Milk production of 342 cows (2,077 test-day records) was available from 5 Dutch commercial dairy herds which started a no DP-strategy for all cows. Test days of the year before applying the no-DP strategy are used as control (323 cows, 1,717 test-day records). Six other herds applied an individual cow approach and have different preplanned DP lengths within one herd. From these herds, information on 81 cows (482 test-day records) with a DP length between 0 and 20 d, 127 cows (925 test-day records) with a DP length between 21 and 35 d, and 143 cows (1,075 test-day records) with a DP length of more than 35 d was available. A generalized linear model incorporating an autoregressive covariance structure accounting for repeated test-day yields within cow was developed to estimate the daily yield (milk, fat and protein) and SCC of all cows. Applying no DP for all cows in the herd resulted in a reduction in postpartum milk production compared with within-herd control lactations (until 305 DIM) between 3.2 and 9.1 kg/d, which was a reduction of 12 and 32%, respectively. For the 6 herds that applied an individual cow approach with different preplanned DP lengths, the cow-specific DP strategy was based on milk production and SCC approximately 2 mo before calving. Cows with a preplanned DP length ranging between 0 and 20 d had a reduction in postpartum milk production between 5.7 and 13 kg/d compared with cows with a DP length of >35 d. Cows with a preplanned DP length ranging from 21 to 35 d had a numerically lower milk production (between 0.6 and 5.3 kg/d) than cows with a preplanned DP length of >35 d, but this difference was significant in only one herd. When corrected for milk yield, no difference in postpartum SCC for cows with different DP lengths was found.