Effect of milking frequency and diet on milk production, energy balance, and reproduction in dairy cows

J Patton, D A Kenny, J F Mee, F P O'Mara, D C Wathes, M Cook, J J Murphy
Journal of Dairy Science 2006, 89 (5): 1478-87
The objective of this study was to determine the effects of reduced milking frequency and increased dietary energy density in early lactation on milk production, energy balance, and subsequent fertility. Sixty-six spring-calving, multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows were assigned to 1 of 3 treatment groups: once-daily milking on a standard diet (1xST); 3-times daily milking on a standard diet (3xST); and 3-times daily milking on a high-energy diet. Treatments were imposed for the first 28 d of lactation, after which all groups were milked twice daily and fed the standard diet. During the treatment period, the 1xST cows had 19.6% lower milk yield and higher milk fat and milk protein concentrations (15.7 and 10.2%, respectively) compared with 3xST. Dry matter (DM) intake was similar between 1xST and 3xST during the treatment period (12.64 vs. 13.25 kg/ d; SED = 0.82). Daily energy balance was less negative for 1xST compared with 3xST during wk 1 to 3 of lactation [-3.92 vs. -5.30 unité fourragère lait (UFL)/d; SED = 0.65; 1 UFL is equal to the net energy for lactation of 1 kg of standard air-dry barley]. During the treatment period, the cows on the high-energy diet had 17% higher milk yield, higher DM intake (15.5 vs. 13.9 kg/d; SED = 0.71), and similar energy balance (-4.45 vs. -4.35 UFL/d; SED = 0.65) compared to 3xST. Diet had no significant effect on any of the fertility variables measured. The interval to first ovulation was shorter for 1xST than 3xST (18.3d vs. 28.6d; SED = 1.76). In conclusion, once-daily milking in early lactation may promote earlier resumption of ovarian cyclicity, mediated through improved nutritional status.

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