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J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2010 Oct;94(5):e7-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2010.00991.x. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

An integrated view on how the management of the dry period length of lactating cows could affect mammary biology and defence.

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1
Department of Physiology and Biometrics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Abstract

The dry period is necessary to facilitate cell turnover in the bovine mammary gland and to optimize milk production in the next lactation. An 8-week dry period has long been the golden standard of management for dairy cows. Genetic improvements and new management technologies have led to higher milk production and a need for re-evaluation of the dry period length. Over the last decade, dry period length has been proposed to be shortened or eliminated mainly from an economic point of view. However, the influence of modified dry period length on the immune defence of the bovine mammary gland and the occurrence of new intramammary infections has not yet been appreciated. The objective of this review is to discuss the bovine mammary gland biology, defence and systemic health when the dry period length is modified. Shortening or eliminating the dry period may minimize or remove the impact of milk accumulation at dry off, thereby lessening the immunodeficiency of the dam that is characteristic of this period. Composition of mammary secretions may change and the extent of tissue remodelling may be reduced when the dry period is reduced or eliminated. Additionally, impact of the dry period length on energy and nutritional status, and on hormonal and local regulatory factors, lead us to hypothesize that changing the dry period length might also affect the response to intramammary infection. It is concluded that there is a need to integrate mammary gland biology and defence mechanisms in studies dealing with modified dry period lengths.

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