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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Effects of dry period length on metabolic status, fertility, udder health, and colostrum production in 2 cow breeds

O'Hara, E. Andree; Bage, R.; Emanuelson, U.; Holtenius, K.


Shortening the dry period improves postpartum energy balance, which has potential positive effects on metabolic health. This concept has been mainly studied in Holstein cows. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a short dry period of 4 wk, compared with a standard dry period of 8 wk, on the metabolic status, progesterone profiles, health, and colostrum quality of dairy cows of 2 breeds, Swedish Red (SR) and Swedish Holstein (SH), not treated with antibiotics at dry off. The IgG uptake in calves was also studied to reflect the colostrum quality when shortening the dry period. Cows of both SH and SR were blocked by breed and parity and then randomly allocated to a short dry period of 4 wk (4W, n = 43) or a conventional dry period of 8 wk (8W, n = 34). Blood samples were collected wk 8, 4, 2, 1 and 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 12 relative to calving. Prepartum, cows with a 4-wk dry period had higher concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids and lower concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1. and insulin than 8W cows. Postpartum, plasma concentration of nonesterified fatty acids was lower, whereas plasma insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 tended to be higher for 4W cows than for 8W cows. Plasma concentration of beta-hydroxybutyrate did not differ between dry period lengths. Swedish Holstein cows with a 4W dry period responded with a lower concentration of insulin prepartum than SR and SH on an 8W dry period. The dry period length had no effect on the proportion of disturbed progesterone profiles; disturbed progesterone profiles occurred in 30% of the 4W cows and 47% of the 8W cows. In this trial, only 48.8% of the SR cows had a normal progesterone profile, which differed from the SH where 76.5% had a normal profile. Fertility-related diseases (endometritis, pyometra, anestrus, ovarian cyst) did not differ between the 2 dry period groups: 21% in the 8W group versus 12% in the 4W group, whereas mastitis tended to be more common: 26% of the 4W cows versus 9% of the 8W cows. A short dry period resulted in less colostrum but with a higher content of protein and somatic cell count. Calves were fed colostrum from their dam, and the IgG and total protein in plasma did not differ between calves to mothers with different a dry period length. Shortening the dry period could improve metabolic status in cows of both SH and SR breed postpartum, without compromising the colostrum quality. Health and progesterone profiles were not affected by the dry period length for SH or SR in this study.


short dry period; metabolism; fertility; colostrum

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2019, Volume: 102, number: 1, pages: 595-606