Indexed on: 21 Nov '15Published on: 21 Nov '15Published in: Journal of Dairy Science
The idea of managing cows for extended lactations rather than lactations of the traditional length of 1 yr primarily arose from observations of increasing problems with infertility and cows being dried off with high milk yields. However, it is vital for the success of extended lactation practices that cows are able to maintain milk yield per feeding day when the length of the calving interval (CInt) is increased. Milk yield per feeding day is defined as the cumulated lactation milk yield divided by the sum of days between 2 consecutive calvings. The main objective of this study was to investigate the milk production of cows managed for lactations of different lengths, and the primary aim was to investigate the relationship between CInt, parity, and milk yield. Five measurements of milk yield were used: energy-corrected milk (ECM) yield per feeding day, ECM yield per lactating day, cumulative ECM yield during the first 305 d of lactation, as well as ECM yield per day during early and late lactation. The analyses were based on a total of 1,379 completed lactations from cows calving between January 2007 and May 2013 in 4 Danish commercial dairy herds managed for extended lactation for several years. Herd-average CInt length ranged from 414 to 521 d. The herds had Holstein, Jersey, or crosses between Holstein, Jersey, and Red Danish cows with average milk yields ranging from 7,644 to 11,286 kg of ECM per cow per year. A significant effect of the CInt was noted on all 5 measurements of milk yield, and this effect interacted with parity for ECM per feeding day, ECM per lactating day and ECM per day during late lactation. The results showed that cows were at least able to produce equivalent ECM per feeding day with increasing CInt, and that first- and second-parity cows maintained ECM per lactating day. Cows with a CInt between 17 and 19 mo produced 476 kg of ECM more during the first 305 d compared with cows with a CInt of less than 13 mo. Furthermore, early-lactation ECM yield was greater for all cows and late-lactation ECM yield was less for second-parity and older cows when undergoing an extended compared with a shorter lactation. Increasing CInt increased the dry period length with 3 to 5d. In conclusion, the group of cows with longer CInt were able to produce at least equivalent amounts of ECM per feeding day when the CInt was up to 17 to 19 mo on these 4 commercial dairy farms.