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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

A randomized study on the effect of an extended voluntary waiting period in primiparous dairy cows on fertility, health, and culling during first and second lactation

Edvardsson Rasmussen, Anna; Båge, Renee; Holtenius, Kjell; Strandberg, Erling; von Brömssen, Claudia; Åkerlind, M.; Kronqvist, Cecilia

Abstract

When the voluntary waiting period (VWP), defined as the days between calving and when the cow is eligible to receive the first insemination, is extended, high-yielding dairy cows may have better opportunities to regain energy balance before first insemination. This study investigated the effect of an extended (145-215 days in milk [DIM], n = 280) or conventional (25-95 DIM, n = 251) VWP treatment on fertility, disease incidence, and culling rate in cows during their first lac-tation. The cows were also followed through a second lactation without intervention regarding VWP, during which the farmers could decide when they wished to start the inseminations. This was done in a random-ized-controlled study on 16 high-yielding commercial herds in southern Sweden, containing a total of 531 primiparous cows of the Holstein and Red Dairy Cattle breeds. Data from the Swedish national dairy herd recording scheme collected between August 2018 and September 2021 were used in the analysis, including records on breed, calvings, estrus intensity, insemina-tions, disease, somatic cell count, culling date, and cull-ing reason. During first lactation, more cows receiving the extended VWP treatment showed strong estrus intensity (score 4-5, 55% vs. 48%) and fewer showed moderate estrus intensity (score 3, 35% vs. 43%) at first insemination, compared with cows receiving the conventional VWP treatment. First service conception rate (FSCR) was higher (67% vs. 51%) and number of inseminations per conception (NINS) was lower (1.6 vs. 2.0) during the first lactation for cows receiving the extended compared with the conventional VWP treatment. For disease incidence rate or culling rate ex-pressed as number of events per cow-time in the study, we found no differences between the cows receiving the 2 VWP treatments in any lactation. Calving to first service interval during second lactation was longer (86 vs. 74 d) for cows with extended compared with conven-tional VWP. In conclusion, primiparous cows with ex-tended VWP showed improved reproductive functions, in the form of higher estrus intensity, greater FSCR, and lower NINS, during the first lactation. However, we observed no apparent effect on these fertility measures during the following lactation (without VWP interven-tion) and no differences in disease prevalence or culling between cows receiving the 2 different VWP treatments in either lactation. Compliance with the planned VWP treatment was lower for cows with planned extended compared with planned conventional VWP treatment. We studied the "intention-to-treat" effect (i.e., the re-sults for all cows randomized to each treatment regard-less of whether the planned VWP was achieved or not) to identify any bias arising due to degree of compliance. However, we found no difference in culling rate between cows randomized to an extended VWP compared with those randomized to a conventional VWP. These find-ings can be used to support management decisions on VWP length in high-yielding dairy herds.

Keywords

extended calving interval; extended lactation; reproduction; culling rate

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2023, Volume: 106, number: 12, pages: 8897-8909