Effect of milking frequency on the behavior and productivity of lactating dairy cows

K D Hart, B W McBride, T F Duffield, T J Devries
Journal of Dairy Science 2013, 96 (11): 6973-85
The objective of this study was to determine the effect of milking frequency on the behavioral patterns and productivity of lactating dairy cows. Twelve freestall-housed, lactating Holstein dairy cows (7 primiparous and 5 multiparous) were exposed to each of 2 treatments (over 21-d periods) in a replicated crossover design. Treatments were milking frequency of 2× /d (at 0600 and 1800 h) or 3× /d (at 0600, 1400, and 2200 h). Milk production, feeding, lying, and rumination behavior were monitored for each animal for the last 7d of each treatment period. Milk samples were collected for the last 3d of each period for milk component analysis. The results indicated that cows milked 3× /d produced 2.9 kg/d more milk than those milked 2× /d. Primiparous cows consumed 3.9 kg/d less dry matter (DM) than did multiparous cows. The extra time (14.6 min/d) required for milking 3× /d altered the distribution of cow behavioral activity throughout the day. Although this did not affect total daily lying or rumination time, we observed a tendency for cows milked 2× /d to spend less time (224.6 vs. 237.5 min/d) feeding and, thus, those cows tended to consume their feed at a faster rate (0.13 vs. 0.12 kg of DM/min) than cows milked 3× /d. For multiparous cows, the increase in feeding activity was facilitated through having longer (40.1 vs. 36.8 min/meal) and numerically larger meals (4.8 vs. 4.6 kg of DM/meal) when milked 3× /d. Alternatively, primiparous cows consumed smaller (2.9 vs. 3.2 kg of DM/meal) and more frequent meals (9.1 vs. 7.7 meals/d) throughout the day when milked 3× /d, resulting in a tendency for greater DM intake (24.7 vs. 23.6 kg/d) compared with primiparous cows milked 2× /d. These results indicate that under 3× /d milking schedules, primiparous cows will positively adjust their feeding behavior to achieve similar production increases as multiparous cows. In summary, milking 3× /d can be used to improve production; however, greater milking frequency elicits varying effects on the behavior of primiparous and multiparous cows, suggesting that grouping and management of cows based on parity may be beneficial.

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