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Intramammary pressure and udder firmness during a 72-h interruption of milking to simulate dry-off, with and without feed restriction

Blau, Ulrich, Zanini, Lisa, Bruckmaier, Rupert M.
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.8 pp. 7548-7555
Holstein, catheters, cows, diet, energy, firmness, late lactation, milk, milk secretion, milk yield, milking frequency, restricted feeding, roughage, serum albumin, somatic cell count, udders
The goal of the present study was to quantify the increase of intramammary pressure (IMP) in dry-off during an extended milking interval of 72 h. In particular, we tested the hypothesis that feed restriction (no concentrate and roughage with reduced energy) causes earlier cessation of milk secretion and a lower IMP than continued feeding of the lactational diet. In addition to repeated IMP measurements, we tested a noninvasive method that records udder firmness (UF) via external application of pressure on the udder. Two experimental groups consisted of 10 Holstein cows each, with a daily milk yield of 20 to 25 kg. The restricted group (RG) was changed to restricted feeding on the afternoon of the final milking (0 h), whereas late-lactation feeding was continued in the control group (CG). Both IMP and UF were measured before and after the final milking immediately before milking was stopped for 72 h. These measurements represented IMP and UF levels at 10 h and 0 h milking intervals, respectively. Further measurements were performed at 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, and 72 h after final milking. Milk samples (2 mL) were taken through the IMP catheter at each sampling event, for analysis of somatic cell count (SCC) and serum albumin (SA). Both IMP and UF increased with time, and both parameters peaked at 30 h in CG and at 24 h in RG. The mean IMP from 18 to 72 h, compared with the 10-h IMP (normal milking interval) was higher in CG than in RG. The duration of elevated IMP and UF was prolonged in CG compared with RG (>36 h vs. 12 h). The Pearson correlation between IMP and UF was r = 0.67. Thus, the noninvasive measurement of UF is suitable to replace invasive IMP measurements. However, due to individual differences in udder shape, the correlation between UF and IMP was too low to predict exact IMP levels using UF. Both SCC (presented as logSCC) and SA increased after the final milking until the end of the experiment. The mean increase from 18 to 72 h, compared with levels immediately after final milking, was higher in CG than in RG for SCC but did not differ between treatments for SA. In conclusion, feed restriction causes a faster cessation of milk secretion and therefore limits the increase of IMP at dry-off.