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Review: extended lactation in dairy cattle

  • J. Sehested (a1), C. Gaillard (a1), J. O. Lehmann (a2), G. M. Maciel (a3), M. Vestergaard (a1), M. R. Weisbjerg (a1), L. Mogensen (a2), L. B. Larsen (a3), N. A. Poulsen (a3) and T. Kristensen (a2)...


This paper reviews the effects of extended lactation (EXT) as a strategy in dairy cattle on milk production and persistency, reproduction, milk quality, lifetime performance of the cow and finally the economic effects on herd and farm levels as well as the impact on emission of greenhouse gas at product level. Primiparous cows are able to produce equal or more milk per feeding day during EXT compared with a standard 305-d lactation, whereas results for multiparous cows are inconsistent. Cows managed for EXT can achieve a higher lifetime production while delivering milk with unchanged or improved quality properties. Delaying insemination enhances mounting behaviour and allows insemination after the cow’s energy balance has become positive. However, in most cases EXT has no effect or a non-significant positive effect on reproduction. The EXT strategy sets off a cascade of effects at herd and farm level. Thus, the EXT strategy leads to fewer calvings and thereby expected fewer diseases, fewer replacement heifers and fewer dry days per cow per year. The optimal lifetime scenario for milk production was modelled to be an EXT of 16 months for first parity cows followed by an EXT of 10 months for later lactations. Modelling studies of herd dynamics indicate a positive effect of EXT on lifetime efficiency (milk per dry matter intake), mainly originating from benefits of EXT on daily milk yield in primiparous cows and the reduced number of replacement heifers. Consequently, EXT also leads to reduced total meat production at herd level. For the farmer, EXT can give the same economic return as a traditional lactation period. At farm level, EXT can contribute to a reduction in the environmental impact of dairy production, mainly as a consequence of the reduced production of beef. A wider dissemination of the EXT concept will be supported by methods to predict which cows may be most suitable for EXT, and clarification of how milking frequency and feeding strategy through the lactation can be organised to support milk yield and an appropriate body condition at the next calving.

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Present address: PEGASE, INRA, AGROCAMPUS OUEST, 35590 Saint-Gilles, France.


Present address: Innovation R&D, Discover Department, Arla Foods Ingredients Group P/S, Sønderupvej 26, Videbaek 6920, Denmark.



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Review: extended lactation in dairy cattle

  • J. Sehested (a1), C. Gaillard (a1), J. O. Lehmann (a2), G. M. Maciel (a3), M. Vestergaard (a1), M. R. Weisbjerg (a1), L. Mogensen (a2), L. B. Larsen (a3), N. A. Poulsen (a3) and T. Kristensen (a2)...


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