Main content area

Effect of dry period length on reproduction during the subsequent lactation

Watters, R.D., Wiltbank, M.C., Guenther, J.N., Brickner, A.E., Rastani, R.R., Fricke, P.M., Grummer, R.R.
Journal of dairy science 2009 v.92 no.7 pp. 3081-3090
dry period, lactation, Holstein, animal age, dairy cows, energy intake, diet, cow feeding, ovulation, anovulation, pregnancy rate, female fertility, dairy herd management
Days dry may influence reproductive measures such as days to first postpartum ovulation, days open, and pregnancy per artificial insemination (AI). Holstein cows (n = 781) from an approximately 3,000-cow commercial dairy operation were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 treatments with different targeted dry period (DP) lengths. Treatments were 1) a traditional DP of 55 d (T) or 2) a shortened DP of 34 d (S). All dry cows on T were fed a low-energy diet until 35 d before expected calving, and then at 34 d before expected calving, cows on T and S were fed a moderate energy diet until parturition. After parturition, all cows consumed the same diets that included a postcalving diet followed by a lactation diet. Actual days dry for each treatment were close to expected values, 34 and 56 d for S and T, respectively. Median days until first postpartum ovulation occurred sooner for S compared with T (35 vs. 43 d). The percentage of cows that were classified anovular by 70 d in milk (DIM) was more than 2-fold greater for cows on T than S (18 vs. 8%). Cows received AI after standing estrus starting at d 45, and the percentage of cows pregnant at 70 DIM tended to be greater for S than T; younger cows were similar (20.2 vs. 18.8%), but there was a difference between S and T in older cows (20.3 vs. 10.6%). Similarly, median days open tended to be fewer for cows on S than T. At 300 DIM, 85% of cows in both treatments were pregnant. Combining data from first and second service, pregnancies per AI were greater in older cows on S than T (32 vs. 24%). Thus, shortening the DP appeared to increase reproductive efficiency in older cows by shortening time to first ovulation, reducing numbers of anovular cows, and improving fertility. Future studies at more locations with varying reproductive management strategies are needed to confirm and provide the mechanistic basis for these results.