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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Effects of Prepartum Milking on Postpartum Reproductive and Production Performance in First-Calf Dairy Heifers

Authors
item Bowers, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Gandy, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Graves, K - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Eicher, Susan
item Willard, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 18, 2006
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
Citation: Bowers, S., Gandy, S., Graves, K., Eicher, S.D., Willard, S. 2006. The effects of prepartum milking on postpartum reproductive and production performance in first-calf dairy heifers. Journal of Dairy Research. 73(3):257-263.

Interpretive Summary: The milking of dairy heifers prior to parturition may be beneficial to postpartum production performance through the habituation of heifers to the milking parlor. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of prepartum milking of dairy heifers on postpartum reproductive health, milk production and other associated production characteristics (udder health). Premilked heifers were milked twice-daily starting three weeks prior to anticipated calving dates. Reproductive measures including, uterine tone, uterine position, uterine difference, and electrical conductivity (a measure of mastitis) were not different. Through week six post-calving, premilked heifers had less edema than control heifers and through week five had lower milk conductivity readings (indicative of fewer incidences of udder infections) than control heifers. The premilked heifers of Jerseys and Holsteins produced more milk at calving and more milk overall from calving to day 60 postpartum than the control heifers. In summary, udder health and milk production was improved post-calving in premilked heifers compared to controls. However, no overt differences in reproductive parameters were observed between the premilked and control heifers. These data may impact dairy producers by demonstrating some benefits of using prepartum milking of dairy heifers in a modified grazing system.

Technical Abstract: The prepartum milking of dairy heifers may be beneficial to postpartum production performance through the habituation of heifers to the milking parlor. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of prepartum milking of dairy heifers on postpartum reproductive health, milk production and other associated production characteristics (udder health). Pregnant heifers (Holstein, n = 21, Jersey n = 10) were assigned to either a prepartum milked (premilked, n = 15) or control (n = 16) treatment group. Premilked heifers were milked twice-daily starting three weeks prior to anticipated calving dates, and milk production recorded at each milking. All heifers were evaluated on day 21, 14 and 7 before calving and udder edema scores and milk conductivity readings were recorded. Following calving, measurements were taken twice-weekly to assess udder edema, milk conductivity, and reproductive health, which included palpation for uterine tone and uterine position, vaginal electrical conductance (VEC), and the quantification of cross-sectional area of the uterine horns (uterine difference) by transrectal ultrasonography. Uterine tone, uterine position, uterine difference, and VEC did not differ (P > 0.10) relative to treatment. Through week six post-calving, premilked heifers had lower (P < 0.01) udder edema scores than control heifers and through week five had lower (P < 0.01) milk conductivity readings (indicative of fewer incidences of udder infections) than control heifers. The premilked heifers of both breeds produced more milk (P < 0.01) at calving and more milk overall from calving to day 60 postpartum than the control heifers. In summary, udder health and milk production was improved post-calving in premilked heifers compared to controls. However, no overt differences in reproductive parameters were observed between the premilked and control heifers. These data can impact dairy producers by demonstrating some benefits of using prepartum milking of dairy heifers in a modified grazing system.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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