Early lactation production, health, and welfare characteristics of cows selected for extended lactation
ABSTRACT Some cows are able to achieve relatively high milk yields during extended lactations beyond 305 d in milk, and farmers may be able to use this potential by selecting the most suitable cows for an extended lactation. However, the decision to postpone insemination has to rely on information available in early lactation. The main objectives of this study were, therefore, to assess the association between the information available in early lactation and the relative milk production of cows on extended lactation, and to investigate if this information can be used to differentiate time of first insemination between cows. Data came from 4 Danish private herds practicing extended lactation in which some cows are selected to have a delayed time of planned first insemination. Average herd size varied from 93 to 157 cows, and milk yield varied from 7,842 to 12,315 kg of energy-corrected milk (ECM) per cow per year across herds. The analysis was based on 422 completed extended lactations (427 ± 87 d), and each lactation was assigned to 1 of 3 (low, medium, and high) milk performance groups (MPG) within parity group within herd based on a standardized lactation yield. For cows in the high MPG, peak ECM yield, and ECM yield at dry off were significantly greater, the relative reduction in milk yield between 60 and 305 d in milk was significantly smaller, and a smaller proportion had a body condition score (scale: 1–5) at dry off of 3.5 or greater compared with cows in low MPG. Previous lactation days in milk at peak ECM yield and ECM yield at dry off were higher, the relative reduction in milk yield between 60 and 305 d in milk was smaller, and the number of inseminations per conception was higher for multiparous cows in high MPG compared with low. Current lactation ECM yield at second and third milk recording were greater for cows in high MPG compared with low. A principal component analysis indicated that variables related to fertility, diseases, and milk yield explained most of the total variation between primiparous cows, whereas variables related to milk yield, fertility, and days in milk at peak yield were the most dominating for multiparous cows. Our study indicated that milk yields in previous lactation and at second and third milk recording correlate well with milk production potential, and therefore, may be promising indicators when selecting the most suitable cows for extended lactation.
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