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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2024

Does Keeping Cows for More Lactations Affect the Composition and Technological Properties of the Milk?

Johansson, Monika; Lindberg, Mikaela; Lundh, Ase


Simple Summary Swedish dairy cows have an average life expectancy of 5 years, i.e., approximately 2.5 lactations during their lifespan. Increasing cow longevity is associated with better animal welfare and lower greenhouse gases per unit milk and cow. However, it is important that there are no negative effects on milk quality if cows are retained in production for longer periods. This study investigated the composition and technological properties of milk from older (>= 3 lactations) and young (1-2 lactations) cows. Apart from higher plasmin and lower plasminogen-derived activity in older cows, the results indicated no major differences in milk quality between the parity groups.Abstract This study investigated differences in the raw milk composition and technological properties between cows with different numbers of lactations. In total, 12 commercial herds were visited within a period of 12 weeks. On each farm, milk samples from five young cows (lactations 1-2) and five older cows (lactation >= 3) were collected. For each farm, milk samples from the young cows and the older cows, respectively, were pooled. The pooled milk samples were analyzed for gross composition and technological properties. Using principal component analysis (PCA) to assess the overall variation in milk quality attributes and the potential clustering of milk from young cows and older cows, respectively, an effect of breed, but no clear effect of lactation number, was observed. In contrast, one-way ANOVA showed higher plasmin activity (p = 0.002) in pooled milk from the older cows, whereas plasminogen-derived activity (p = 0.001) and total proteolysis (p = 0.029) were higher in milk from the young cows. Likewise, orthogonal projections to latent structure discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA) showed higher plasmin activity in milk from older cows, whereas younger cows had higher plasminogen-related activity and higher total proteolysis. To conclude, except for plasmin and plasminogen-related activities, there were no major differences in the composition and technological properties between milk from older cows and young cows.


cow longevity; milk composition and technological properties; number of lactations

Published in

2024, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 157
Publisher: MDPI