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Association between age at first calving, year and season of first calving and milk production in Holstein cows

  • E. Froidmont (a1), P. Mayeres (a2), P. Picron (a1), A. Turlot (a1), V. Planchon (a3) and D. Stilmant (a1)...

Abstract

The effects of first calving (FC) in Holstein heifers on their first lactation, second lactation and lifetime milk production were examined from an initial database of 459 743 animals that first calved between 1 January 1990 and 31 July 2010 in Wallonia, Belgium. The FC age class (18 to 22, 22 to 26, 26 to 30, 30 to 34, 34 to 38 and 38 to 42 months), the FC season and FC year class (1990 to 1994, 1995 to 1999, 2000 to 2004 and 2005 to 2010) were considered when analysing the first and second lactation data. Lifetime data were similarly analysed, but did not include animals that calved after 2005 because many of them were still lactating. Only 24% of animals had their FC before 26 months of age. Animals that first calved between 22 and 26 months of age had more lactations and productive days during their life. They also had higher first and second lactation milk production and lifetime milk production. Summer or autumn FC improved first lactation, second lactation and lifetime milk production, as well as production per day of lactation, compared with winter or spring FC. Compared with animals that calved for the first time in 1990 to 1994, animals with a FC in 2000 to 2004 had a longer calving interval (0.5 months), fewer lactations per animal (−0.6) and fewer days in their lifetime lactation (a reduction of 144 days). As a result, the animals’ lifetime production did not increase between 1990 to 1994 and 2000 to 2004, although milk production per day of lactation (22.85 v. 20.49 l/day) and per day of life (11.49 v. 10.78 l/day) improved. Milk fat content was lower in 2000 to 2004 than in 1990 to 1994, but protein content remained relatively constant, probably because of the cows’ higher production level and increased dietary concentrate supplementation.

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