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Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2001 May 2;72(3):271-280.

Effects of different suckling systems on milk production, udder health, reproduction, calf growth and some behavioural aspects in high producing dairy cows - a review.

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Department of Animal Health and Welfare, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Research Centre Foulum, P.O. Box 50, Dk-8830, Tjele, Denmark


This article discusses the consequences of different suckling systems in the industrial countries for the milk production, udder health, reproduction and behaviour of high producing dairy cows and the effects on the gain, health and behaviour of the calves. The suckling systems are divided into three different categories depending on the purpose and duration of the suckling period. Long-term suckling with or without additional milking covering the period where the calf has a nutritional need for milk, and short-term suckling, where cow and calf are kept together in the colostrum period only.Long-term suckling without additional milking in early lactation can in some situations stimulate the subsequent milk production to a greater extent than milking alone. No clear or significant differences can be found between restricted and free suckling systems. Most experiments show that suckling decreases the risk of mastitis in the suckling period and in some cases even for some time after the suckling has been terminated. Suckling and milking during the same period is not advantageous in production turns because of a very poor ejection of milk. Long-term suckling can increase the post-partum interval until first heat, in some cases until the end of the suckling period. However, as the cows appear to be more fertile, the net effect on reproduction is small. The suckled calves are usually healthy with a high daily gain. Short-term suckling have more advantages than disadvantages on production, health and behaviour of both the cow and the calf compared to an immediate separation after birth.


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