Milk production of dairy cows as affected by the length of the preceding dry period
The objective of the study was to determine the effect of the duration of the dry period (DP) on the milk yield and milk composition during the following lactation. Milk performance records of 561 Holstein cows, with a previous DP from the Elsenburg Research Farm obtained from the National Milk Recording Scheme, were used in the study. Four groups of dairy cows were identified, based on the duration of their dry period, i.e. cows with a DP of less than 60 days, DP of 61 to 90 days, DP of 91 to 120 days and DP of more than 121 days. The number of records for each group was 76, 162, 83 and 240 lactations, respectively. An ANOVA was conducted using the Generalized Linear Model of SAS to compare milk yield and milk composition according to the DP length. Almost 43% of cows had a DP longer than 121 days, while less than 14% of cows had a DP of less than 60 days. The milk yield was positively affected by DP length. Cows with a DP of less than 60 days produced less milk than cows with longer (more than 61 days) dry periods, e.g. 6462 ± 321 vs. 7393 ± 99 kg. Results were similar for cows in their second and fourth parity. In addition, the milk composition of cows was also affected by DP length, i.e. higher fat and protein levels in the milk from cows with a short DP. Cows in the third lactation with a DP above 121 days produced more milk than the other DP groups. However, the milk composition of cows in the third lactation was not affected by DP length. A DP of less than 60 days reduced milk yield, while an extended DP of more than 121 days would be costly for the dairy farmer even though milk yield was higher. A long dry period may also result due to an excess body condition and calving complications during the subsequent lactation.
Keywords: Dry period, milk yield, milk composition, dairy cows