Skip to main content Accessibility help

Management options to reduce load

  • C. Thomas (a1), K. A. Leach (a1), D. N. Logue (a2), C. Ferris (a3) and R. H. Phipps (a4)...


The aim of this paper is to define the critical periods within the lifetime of the cow where metabolic load is likely to have an influence on health, welfare and reproductive performance and to devise management strategies which will reduce the metabolic ‘load’ at those critical periods. The paper uses the data from the SAC Acrehead ‘metabolic stress’ study as its base. This systems study examines a low input (LI) and a high output (HO) strategy and their influence on financial performance, nutrient balance and the health and welfare of dairy cows. Milk yields ranged from 53371 (LI spring calving heifers) to 100191 (HO autumn-calving cows). By using weight and condition-score losses, reduced milk yield and metabolic profiles as indices of metabolic stress, two critical points were identified in the systems. These were in LI systems in years of low forage supply and spring-calving cows at grass in spring. The Acrehead study is remarkable in that it shows that cows of relatively high genetic merit have, in the main, a similar incidence of disease and level of immune function in both systems. However the general level of reproductive performance and incidence of lameness, although comparable with other studies, is disappointingly poor and reproductive performance at Acrehead has been declining over time. Thus there is reason for decreasing the degree of load in both systems. Strategies over the lifetime of the cow designed to overcome these problems in critical periods are examined. These periods are identified as rearing, pre-partum, calving and early lactation. Within each of these periods, management options to overcome load, such as feeding, housing and, where applicable, milking, are discussed. From the combination of systems results from Acrehead and reference to the literature it is concluded that, in the past, too much emphasis has been placed on examining the effects of nutrition alone on metabolic load and its implications. On the other hand, too little research has been conducted on the interaction between nutrition and the management of the cow, in terms of housing and grouping, food trough access and building design. It is also important to recognize that each day within the lifetime of the cow is not independent. Thus management during one period could have an influence during a subsequent period, not only on the likelihood of the cow to experience metabolic load but also on her ability to ameliorate its effects on health and reproduction.



Hide All
Aaes, O., Ingartsen, K. L. and Andersen, J. B. 1995. Energy level and strategy of feeding for dairy cows in the dry period. Proceedings of the European Association for Animal Production, 1995, Prague, p. 88 (abstr.).
Bar-Annan, R., Ron, M. and Higgans, G. R. 1985. Associations between milk yield, persistency, conception and culling of Israeli Holstein dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 68:382387.
Beever, D. E., Cammell, S.B., Sutton, J. D., Rowe, N. and Perrott, G.E. 1998. Energy balance in high yielding cows. Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science, 1998, p. 13. (abstr.).
Berry, R.J., Logue, D. N., Waran, N., Appleby, M. and Offer, J. E. 1998. Effect of high and low production regimes on the development of claw lesions and behaviour of dairy cows. Proceedings of the Association of Veterinary Teachers and Research Workers, Scarborough, (abstr.)
Bertics, S., Grummer, R. R., Cardorninga-Valino, C. and Stoddard, E. E. 1992. Effect of prepartum dry matter intake on liver triglycéride concentration and early lactation. Journal of Dairy Science 75:19141922.
Breukink, M. J. and Wensing, H. K. 1997. Pathophysiology of the liver in high yielding dairy cows and its consequences for health and production. Journal of Veterinary Medicine 52:6672.
Burke, C. R., Macmillan, K. L. and McDougall, S. 1995. Effects of breed and calving liveweight on post partům ovarian activity in pasture fed dairy heifers. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 55:7678.
Carson, A. F. and Patterson, D. 1997. Rearing dairy herd replacements. Hillsborough occasional publication, no. 25, pp. 103120. Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough.
Dewhurst, R. J. and Knight, C. 1994. Relationship between milk storage characteristics and the short term response of dairy cows to thrice daily milking. Animal Production 58: 181188.
Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1997. Report on welfare of the dairy cow. Farm Animal Welfare Council, London.
Ferris, C P., Gordon, F. J., Patterson, D.C. and Porter, M. G. 1998a. The influence of cow genotype and concentrate proportion in the diet on energy utilisation by lactating dairy cows. In Energy metabolism of farm animals (ed. McCracken, K., Answorth, E. F. and Wylie, A. R. G.). CAB International, UK.
Ferris, C P., Patterson, D.C and Mayne, C. S. 1998b. Nutrition of the high genetic merit dairy cow — practical considerations. In Recent advances in animal nutrition (ed. Garnsworthy, P. C. and Wiseman, J.), pp. 209234. Nottingham University Press.
Foldager, J. and Ingvartsen, K. L. 1995. Production and health in first lactation in dairy cows in relation to prepartum ration energy concentration and daily energy level. Proceedings of the European Association for Animal Production, 1995, Prague, p. 88. (abstr.).
Friend, T. H., Polan, C. E. and McGillard, M. L. 1977. Free stall and feed bunk requirements relative to behaviour, production and individual feed intake in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 60:108116.
Garnsworthy, H.C. 1988. The effect of energy reserves at calving on the performance of dairy cows. In Nutrition and lactation in the dairy cow (ed. Garnsworthy, P. C.), pp. 315326. Butterworths, London.
Gordon, F. J., Patterson, D.C., Yan, T., Porter, M. G., Mayne, C. S. and Ainsworth, E. F. 1995. The influence of genetic index for milk production on the response to complete diet feeding and the utilisation of energy and nitrogen. Animal Science 61:199210.
Grohn, Y., Saloniemi, H. and Syvajarvi, J. 1986. An epidemiological and genetic study on registered diseases in Finnish Ayrshire cattle. 1. The data, disease occurrence and culling. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 27:182195.
Grummer, R. R. 1995. Impact of changes in organic nutrient metabolism on feeding the transition dairy cow. Journal of Animal Science 73:28202833.
Hameleers, A. 1998. The effects of the inclusion of either maize silage, fermented whole crop wheat or urea-treated wholecrop wheat in a diet based on a high-quality grass silage on the performance of dairy cows. Grass and Forage Science 53:157163.
Harrison, R. O., Ford, S. P., Young, J. W., Conley, A. J. and Freeman, A. E. 1990. Increased milk production versus reproductive and energy status of high producing dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 73:27492758.
Ingvartsen, K. L. and Aaes, O. 1995. Effect of rate of increase in concentrate allowances and separate feeding versus total mixed ration on feed intake, milk yield and health in early lactation. Proceedings of the European Association for Animal Production, 1995, Prague, p. 87. (abstr.).
Knight, C. H. 1998. Extended lactation. Hannah Research Institute yearbook, 1998, pp. 3039.
Krohn, C. C. and Anderson, P. E. 1981. Using the energy concentration of complete diets to control the feed intake of dairy cows. 1. Late lactation and dry period. Statens Husdyrbrugsforsøg, Meddelelser 335, pp. 356360.
Krohn, C. C. and Konggaard, S. P. 1979. Effects of isolating first lactation cows from older cows. Livestock Production Science 6:137146.
Kruip, T. A. M., Werf, J. H. J. van der and Wensing, T. 1996. Energy balance in early lactation of high producing dairy cows and its relation to reproduction, health and welfare. In Utilisation of local feed resources by dairy cattle (ed. Groen, A. F. and van Bruchem, J.), Symposium proceedings, Wageningen, Wageningen Pers, The Netherlands. EAAP publication no. 84, p. 45.
Kunz, P. L., Blum, J. W., Hart, I.C., Bichel, H. and Landis, J. 1985. Effects of different energy intakes before and after calving on food intake, performance and blood hormones and metabolism in dairy cows.
Little, W. and Harrison, R. D. 1981. Effects of different rates of live-weight gain during rearing on the performance of Friesian heifers in their first lactation. Animal Production 32: 362 (abstr.).
Little, W. and Kay, R. M. 1979. The effects of rapid rearing and early calving on the subsequent performance of dairy heifers. Animal Production 29:134142.
Logue, D. N., Berry, R. J., Offer, J. E., Chaplin, S. J., Crawshaw, W. M., Leach, K.A. Ball, P. J. H. and Bax, J. A. 1999. Consequences of metabolic load for lameness and disease. In Metabolic stress in dairy cows (ed. Oldham, J. D., Simm, G., Groen, A. F., Nielsen, B. L., Pryce, J. E. and Lawrence, T. L. J.), pp. 8398. British Society of Animal Science occasional publication no. 24.
McDougall, S., Burke, C. R., Macmillan, K. L. and Williamson, N.B. 1995. The effect of stocking rate and breed on the performance of post partům anoestrus in grazing dairy cattle. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 55:236238.
Mayne, C. S., Cushanan, A and McGilloway, D. 1997. Grazing management. In Recent research on milk production. Hillsborough occasional publication, no. 25, pp. 116. Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough.
Mayne, C. S. and Ferris, C. 1997. Managing the dry cow. In Recent research on milk production. Hillsborough occasional publication, no. 25, pp. 121128. Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough.
Mayne, C. S. and Gordon, F.J. 1995. Implications of genotype X nutrition interactions for efficiency of milk production systems. In Breeding and feeding the high genetic merit dairy cow (éd. Lawrence, T. L. J., Gordon, F. J. and Carson, A.), pp. 6777. British Society of Animal Science occasional publication no. 19.
Mayne, C. S. and Peyraud, J. L. 1996. Recent advances in grassland utilisation under grazing and conservation. In Grassland and land use systems, Proceedings of the 16th EGF meeting, volume 1, pp. 347360.
Metz, J. 1983. Food competition in cattle. In Farm animal housing and welfare (ed. Baxter, S. M., Baxter, N. R. and MacCormack, J.A.C.), pp. 164170. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 1982. Rearing autumn born Friesian heifers to calve at two years. Agricultural Development and Advisory Service Booklet 2379. MAFF, Alnwick, Northumberland.
Moorby, J. M., Dewhurst, R. J. and Marsden, S. 1996. Effect of increasing digestible undegraded protein supply to dairy cows in late gestation on the yield and composition of milk during the subsequent lactation. Animal Science 63: 201213.
Olsson, G. F., Emanuelson, M. and Wiktorsson, H. 1997. Effects on milk production and health of dairy cows of feeding different ratios of concentrate/forage and additional fat before calving. Acta Agricultura; Scandinavica 47:91105
Pearson, R. E., Fulton, L. A., Thompson, P. D. and Smith, W. J. 1979. Three times a day milking during the first half of lactation. Journal of Dairy Science 62:19411950.
Percival, D. and Offer, N. 1998. Relationships between dairy cow performance and the diet of the cow in early lactation. Report for Dalgety Agriculture, Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive.
Phipps, R. J., Bines, J. A. and Cooper, A. 1983. A preliminary study to compare individual feeding through Calan electronic feeding gates to group feeding. Animal Production 36:544 (abstr.).
Phipps, R. H., Sutton, J. D. and Beever, D. E. 1998. The influence of maize silage maturity on forage intake and milk production of Friesian-Holstein dairy cows in the United Kingdom. Journal of Dairy Science 81: (suppl. 1) 251.
Phipps, R. H., Sutton, J. D. and Jones, B. A. 1995. Forage mixtures for dairy cows; the effect on dry matter intake and milk production of incorporating either fermented or urea-treated whole crop wheat, brewers grains, fodder beet or maize silage into diets based on grass silage. Animal Science 61:491496
Poole, D. A. 1982. The effects of milking cows three times daily. Animal Production 34:197201.
Porter, R. M., Conrad, H. R. and Gilmore, L.O. 1966. Milk secretion rate as related to milk yield and frequency of milking. Journal of Dairy Science 49:10641067,
Prescott, N.B., Mottram, T. T. and Webster, A. J. F. 1998. Effect of food type and location on the attendance to an automatic milking system by dairy cows and the effect of feeding during milking on their behaviour and milking characteristics. Animal Science 67:183194.
Sejersen, K. and Purup, S. 1997. Influence of prepubertal feeding on milk yield potential of dairy heifers: a review. Journal of Animal Science 75:828835.
Skidmore, A. L., Peeters, K. A. M., Sniffen, C. and Brand, A. 1996. Monitoring dry period management. In Herd health and production management in dairy practice (ed. Brand, A., Noordhuizen, J. P. T. M. and Schukken, Y. H.), pp. 171201. Wageningen Pers, Wageningen.
Veerkamp, R. F., Simm, G. and Oldham, J. D. 1995. Genotype X environment interactions: experience from Langhill. In Breeding and feeding the high genetic merit dairy cow (ed. Lawrence, T. L. J., Gordon, F. J. and Carson, A.), pp. 5966. British Society of Animal Science occasional publication no. 19.
Villa-Godoy, A., Hughes, T. L., Emery, R. S., Chaplin, T. L. and Fogwell, R. L. 1988. Association between energy balance and luteal function in lactating dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 71:1063.
Wassell, T. R., Stott, A. W. and Wassell, B. R. 1998. The economics of extended lactation: the farmer’s angle. Proceedings of the European Association for Animal Production, 1998, Prague.
Winter, A. and Hillerton, J.E. 1995. Behaviour associated with feeding and milking of early lactation cows housed in an experimental automatic milking system. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 46: 115.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed