Evaluation of customized dry-period strategies in dairy cows

A. Kok, R.J. van Hoeij, B. Kemp, A.T.M. van Knegsel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Shortening or omitting the dry period to improve the energy balance in early lactation have the trade-offs of reduction in milk production and loss of opportunity for dry-cow therapy (DCT; i.e., intramammary antibiotic use at dry-off). Customized dry-period strategies (i.e., deciding upon DCT and dry-period length per cow) could mitigate negative effects of short or no dry periods on milk production and udder health and simultaneously retain benefits from improved energy balance and fertility. In this study, we evaluated 3 decision trees to customize dry-period strategies for individual cows. In the control tree (CT), all cows had a 60-d dry period, with DCT if somatic cell count (SCC) was >150,000 cells/mL before dry-off. In decision tree 1 (T1), parity 1 and parity >1 cows were assigned DCT if SCC was ≥150,000 cells/mL and SCC ≥50,000 cells/mL, respectively; whereas in decision tree 2 (T2), the threshold for DCT was SCC ≥200,000 cells/mL for all animals. In T1 and T2, cows with DCT were assigned a 60-d dry period, whereas cows without DCT were assigned a 30-d or 0-d dry period if their milk production remained >12 kg/d at 67 and 37 d before calving, respectively. Cows were monitored from 8 wk before to 14 wk after calving. Milk production and composition, SCC, body condition score, body weight, and occurrence of treatment for disease (related to calving and start of lactation) were compared between CT (n = 61 cows), T1 (n = 59 cows), and T2 (n = 63 cows). Effects of decision trees (CT, T1, T2) and of dry-period strategies (60-d dry with or without antibiotics, 30-d dry, or 0-d dry) on measured variables were analyzed separately with mixed models, effects on udder-health status with a logistic regression, and occurrence of treatment for diseases with a Pearson chi-squared test. In T1, 36% of cows qualified for 30-d and 2% for 0-d dry periods, whereas in T2 this was 51% and 30% for 30-d and 0-d dry periods, respectively. Compared with CT, cows in T1 and T2 on average produced more milk in the 8 wk before calving (0.2 vs. 3.9 vs. 7.1 kg/d in CT vs. T1 vs. T2), and less in the 14 wk after calving (40.0 vs. 37.0 vs. 35.2 kg/d in CT vs. T1 vs. T2). There was no difference in udder-health status in the transition period among decision trees. In the first 14 wk after calving, recovery of body weight was greater for T2 than CT and T1. Overall, 30-d and 0-d dry periods reduced milk revenues, but this might be financially compensated by improved cow health with customized dry-period strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1887-1899
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • continuous milking
  • dry-cow antibiotics
  • dry-period length
  • selective dry-cow therapy

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