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J Dairy Sci. 2006 May;89(5):1713-22.

Dry period length to maximize production across adjacent lactations and lifetime production.

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Animal Improvements Program Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA.


The primary objectives of this research were to determine the dry period lengths that maximize production across adjacent lactations and also dry period length that maximizes lifetime yield. Effect of days dry (DD) after lactations 1 through 3 were determined separately for both adjacent lactation sums and lifetime yield. Field data, collected through the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, on US Holstein cows first calving between January 1997 and January 2004 were utilized. Lifetime records were restricted to cows first calving no later than December 1999. Actual lactation yields, in contrast to standardized records, were used to calculate lactation sums and lifetime records. Herds were required to be on test for the entire period to avoid partial records. Another important edit was that actual calving dates had to agree with expected calving dates, based on reported days open, within 10 d. This edit ensured that the producer knew, at least at one point in time, when the cow was going to calve. Cow effects were corrected for in both the adjacent lactation and lifetime analyses. The minimum DD to maximize production across adjacent lactations depended on parity. For yield across first and second lactations, there was little loss in production with a minimum of 40 to 45 DD. Longer dry periods (55 to 65 DD) were required after second and third lactations however, presumably due to the lower persistency of second and later lactation cows. Lifetime production was maximized by 40 to 50 DD after first lactation and 30 to 40 DD after second and later lactations. Fewer DD were required to maximize lifetime yield than adjacent lactation yield because cows with fewer DD also had more lifetime days in milk. Although dry periods of 30 to 40 d can be used after second and later lactations without cost in lifetime yield, their benefit to lifetime production is minimal. Dry periods shorter than 30 d or longer than 70 d are costly to lifetime yield and should be avoided. Dry periods longer than 80 d are even more costly than dry periods less than 30 d.

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