First-calving age and first-lactation milk production on Dutch dairy farms

N. Mohd Nor, W. Steeneveld, T. van Werven, M.C.M. Mourits, H. Hogeveen

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Farmers attempting to reduce first-calving age (FCA) need to understand which rearing management factors influence FCA and first-lactation milk production (FLP). Reduced FCA might be associated with lower FLP. This study describes the association between herd FCA, FLP, and several herd-level health and rearing management variables and describes the association between FCA and FLP at the cow level. It uses data from a 2010 survey of 100 Dutch dairy farms about general management, colostrum and milk feeding, housing, cleanliness, healthcare, disease, and breeding. It also used available data on FCA and 305-d FLP at both cow and herd level. The associations between median FCA and median FLP of the herd and herd-level health and rearing management variables were determined using multivariate regression analysis. The median FCA was associated with minimum age of first insemination, feeding of waste milk, and the amount of milk given preweaning. The median FLP was associated with median FCA and vaccination status for bovine respiratory syncytial virus. The association between FCA and FLP (based on 8,454 heifers) was analyzed with a single-effect linear mixed model, where the dependent variable was either FCA or relative FCA (defined as the difference between FCA of the heifer and median FCA of the herd to which they belonged). Heifers having an FCA of 24. mo produced, on average, 7,164. kg of milk per 305. d, and calving 1. mo earlier gave 143. kg less milk per 305. d. When FCA did not deviate from the median herd FCA, heifers produced, on average, 7,272. kg of milk per 305. d. From the median FCA of the herd, heifers calving 1. mo earlier produced 90. kg of milk per 305. d less, and heifers calving 1. mo later produced 86. kg per 305. d more. This is the first study that explained FLP using relative FCA. It assumes that heifers raised within the same farm have similar development because they are similarly managed. Similar management is reflected by the median FCA of the herd, with a deviation of the heifer's FCA from median FCA reflecting the heifer's development relative to the herd's average. The advantage of using relative FCA was that it accounts for between-farm differences in rearing management. It showed that earlier insemination without adjusting management to ensure sufficient development lowers FLP. An economic optimum exists between rearing costs, FCA, and FLP and, as a consequence, decisions with regard to young stock management should be made with care. © 2013 American Dairy Science Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-992
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • heifer management decisions
  • southwest sweden
  • lactation milk
  • 1st lactation
  • growth
  • costs
  • yield
  • netherlands
  • performance
  • cows

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