The economic impact of drying off cows with a dry-off facilitator (cabergoline) compared with 2 methods of gradual cessation of lactation for European dairy farms

W Steeneveld, A De Prado-Taranilla, K Krogh, H Hogeveen
Journal of Dairy Science 2019 June 6
An abrupt method to dry off cows has disadvantages and is considered inappropriate for current dairy cows due to welfare issues and risks for intramammary infections (IMI). A gradual cessation of lactation (by feeding or milking frequency reduction) has been the generally recommended method for drying off cows to prevent these adverse effects. However, a new alternative to the gradual approach is to abruptly stop milking at the same time as using cabergoline (CAB), a prolactin inhibitor. The aim of the study was to compare the net costs of 3 different methods of drying off cows [gradual reduction in feed (gradual-feeding), gradual reduction in milking frequency (gradual-milking), and abrupt cessation of milking with CAB (abrupt-CAB)]. A stochastic Monte Carlo simulation model, at cow level, was developed to calculate the net costs of applying these methods. All inputs for the model were based on literature information, authors' expertise, and expert knowledge. The net costs were determined by only including costs and benefits, which varied between the 3 methods. The model simulated a cow from 7 d before the day of drying off until the end of the next lactation. The likelihood of whether a cow was leaking milk early in the dry period was determined. Subsequently, it was determined whether or not the cow will get an IMI during the dry period, where the probability of getting an IMI was higher for cows leaking milk than for cows not leaking milk. If the IMI was not cured during the dry period, the cow had an IMI at calving. Also, milk production and feed requirements were modeled, and labor for applying the drying off method was included. For all methods, the net costs were calculated as the sum of costs for feed during the gradual feed reduction period, costs for applying the gradual-milking method, and the IMI costs during the dry period and lactation, minus the milk revenues during the transition from lactation to the dry period. Under default conditions, the average net cost of abrupt-CAB was €49.6/cow. The data showed that 90% of the net costs ranged from -€13.7 to €307.8/cow. The average net costs for gradual-feed and gradual-milking were €99.1 and €71.5/cow, respectively. In conclusion, abrupt-CAB saved €49.5 and €21.9/cow on average compared with gradual-feeding and gradual-milking, respectively. This difference was mainly due to more milk returns and lower labor and IMI costs during lactation.

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