Effects of Management and Genetics on Udder Health and Milk Composition in Dairy Cows

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Abstract

Milk production per cow has increased significantly as a result of breeding, feeding, and other management factors. This study aims to address concerns about udder health risks for low- and high-producing dairy cows. In a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design, Holstein-Friesian heifers (n = 100) of low or high genetic merit for milk production, milked 2 or 3 times a day, and fed a mixed ration with low or high energy content, were compared during the first 14 wk of lactation. Milk composition and cell counts were determined weekly; quarter milk samples for bacteriology were taken in wk 2, 8, and 14; and teat condition was scored in wk 2, 6, 10, and 14 during the experiment. The experimental factors resulted in substantial differences in milk production between treatment groups (24.1 for low vs. 25.6 kg/d for high genetic merit; 23.3 for 2 times vs. 26.5 kg/d for 3 times daily milking; and 20.9 for low-energy ration vs. 29.0 kg/d for high-energy ration). Ration composition was the most important determining factor for milk production, but did not affect cell counts or intramammary bacterial infections, although cows that received low-energy rations had rougher teat ends than cows receiving high-energy rations. This indicates that high production itself is not a major risk factor for udder health in the first lactation. A higher milking frequency impaired teat condition and improved cell counts in general, but did not clearly influence bacteriological status. High genetic merit was related to higher cell count, more Staphylococcus, and less Bacillus and other environmental pathogens in cultures and did not affect teat condition. The effects of milking frequency and feeding on udder health were similar for cows with high and low genetic merit. Genetic selection on milk production, without taking udder health into account, reduces udder health. As a result, maintaining udder health will require increasing the skills and time of dairy farmers who have to divide their attention to more cows when farm sizes increase, or selection should put more emphasis on udder health traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-238
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume90
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • somatic-cell counts
  • clinical mastitis
  • early lactation
  • energy-balance
  • cattle
  • yield
  • performance
  • selection
  • frequency
  • level

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