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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Dec;90(12):5483-9.

Evaluation of continuous lactation and increased milking frequency on milk production and mammary cell turnover in primiparous Holstein cows.

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Monsanto Company, St. Louis, MO 63167, USA.


We hypothesized that early-lactation increased milking frequency, in combination with bovine somatotropin (bST), would improve milk yield in continuously milked (CM) primiparous glands through greater mammary epithelial cell (MEC) function, proliferation, and reduced apoptosis (cell turnover). Primiparous cows were randomly assigned to a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial with a split-plot design to either a continuous bST (+bST, n = 4) or no bST (-bST, n = 4) treatment throughout the study. Within each animal, udder halves were randomly assigned to either a CM or a 60-d dry period (control). During late gestation, CM glands were milked twice daily until calving or until spontaneous dry-off. At calving, cows were milked either twice or 4 times daily and udder-half milk yield was recorded until 30 d postpartum. Mammary biopsies were conducted on -19 +/- 13, -8 +/- 6, +2, +7, and +20 d relative to calving. Postpartum milk yield was reduced in CM udder halves. Reduced milk yield in CM half udders from cows administered bST and milked 4 times daily was 35% compared with 65% in CM half udders in cows not provided bST and milked twice daily. Proliferation of MEC tended to be greater in control vs. CM tissue at 8 +/- 6 d prepartum. Mammary epithelial cell proliferation was greater during the prepartum period (d -19, -8) compared with postpartum time points (d 2, 7, 20). Apoptosis of MEC was not affected by dry period length, but was elevated during the first 7 d postpartum compared with levels measured at -19, -8, and 20 d. Bovine somatotropin did not alter MEC turnover in primiparous CM or control glands. The use of increased milking frequency and bST alleviated, but did not prevent, reductions in milk yield of CM primiparous cows.

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