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Research article2020Peer reviewed

An observational study of the dry period length and its relation to milk yield, health, and fertility in two dairy cow breeds

O'Hara, Elisabeth Andree; Holtenius, Kjell; Bage, Renee; von Bromssen, Claudia; Emanuelson, Ulf


This study evaluated associations between dry period length (DPL) in dairy cows and energy-corrected milk (ECM) production, health, and fertility, using a dataset involving 78 577 lactations in cows of two breeds, Swedish Red (SR) and Swedish Holstein (SH). Herds with at least 20 cows and at least 20 % purebred SR and at least 20 % SH during the year 2015/2016 were included in the dataset. Cows were divided into parity groups 2 and 3 or older and DPL was classified into six 10-day groups (30-39 to 80-89 d). Associations between DPL and the outcome variables were assessed with linear and generalized linear mixed models. Production of ECM at the first three test milkings and the 305-d lactation was highest in the 50-59 d and 60-69 d DPL groups, and lowest in the 30-39 d and 80-89 d groups (p<0.001). Mastitis and somatic cell count (SCC) did not differ between DPL groups, except at the third test milking, where cows in the 40-49, 50-59, and 60-69 DPL groups had lower SCC (p<0.001) than cows in the 70-79 and 80-89 d groups. The odds ratio (OR) for retained placenta was 1.9 for cows with 30-39 d DPL relative to cows with 60-69 d DPL. Cows in DPL groups 40-49 d and 50-59 ha d the lowest odds of culling (OR=0.89 and 0.92). The OR for culling in cows with DPL 70-79 d and 80-89 was 1.2 and 1.4, respectively, relative to cows with 60-69 d DPL. The conception rate at first insemination did not among between DPL groups. The SR cows produced less ECM than the SH cows, but had lower SCC and lower OR for mastitis, retained placenta, puerperal paresis, and culling within 90 DIM. Although DPL <40 days or >80 days reduced milk production in early lactation and the 305-d lactation, the estimated additional milk production in the preceding lactation in cows with short DPL compensated for this reduction. A DPL of 40 days did not affect health and fertility in comparison with a conventional 60 d DPL, while a DPL of >70 d was unfavorable due to low milk production, increased risk of culling, and decreased fertility. The response to DPL was not affected by breed or parity.


Dry period length; Milk yield; Fertility; Mastitis; Breed; Parity

Published in

Preventive Veterinary Medicine
2020, Volume: 175, article number: 104876Publisher: ELSEVIER