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Associations between age at first calving, rearing average daily weight gain, herd milk yield and dairy herd production, reproduction, and profitability

L Krpálková, V E Cabrera, J Kvapilík, J Burdych, P Crump
Journal of Dairy Science 2014, 97 (10): 6573-82
The objective of this study was to evaluate the associations of variable intensity in rearing dairy heifers on 33 commercial dairy herds, including 23,008 cows and 18,139 heifers, with age at first calving (AFC), average daily weight gain (ADG), and milk yield (MY) level on reproduction traits and profitability. Milk yield during the production period was analyzed relative to reproduction and economic parameters. Data were collected during a 1-yr period (2011). The farms were located in 12 regions in the Czech Republic. The results show that those herds with more intensive rearing periods had lower conception rates among heifers at first and overall services. The differences in those conception rates between the group with the greatest ADG (≥0.800 kg/d) and the group with the least ADG (≤0.699 kg/d) were approximately 10 percentage points in favor of the least ADG. All the evaluated reproduction traits differed between AFC groups. Conception at first and overall services (cows) was greatest in herds with AFC ≥800 d. The shortest days open (105 d) and calving interval (396 d) were found in the middle AFC group (799 to 750 d). The highest number of completed lactations (2.67) was observed in the group with latest AFC (≥800 d). The earliest AFC group (≤749 d) was characterized by the highest depreciation costs per cow at 8,275 Czech crowns (US$414), and the highest culling rate for cows of 41%. The most profitable rearing approach was reflected in the middle AFC (799 to 750 d) and middle ADG (0.799 to 0.700 kg) groups. The highest MY (≥8,500 kg) occurred with the earliest AFC of 780 d. Higher MY led to lower conception rates in cows, but the highest MY group also had the shortest days open (106 d) and a calving interval of 386 d. The same MY group had the highest cow depreciation costs, net profit, and profitability without subsidies of 2.67%. We conclude that achieving low AFC will not always be the most profitable approach, which will depend upon farm-specific herd management. The MY is a very important factor for dairy farm profitability. The group of farms having the highest MY achieved the highest net profit despite having greater fertility problems.


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