Production, partial cash flows and greenhouse gas emissions of simulated dairy herds with extended lactations

A. Kok*, J.O. Lehmann, B. Kemp, H. Hogeveen, C.E. van Middelaar, I.J.M. de Boer, A.T.M. van Knegsel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The transition period is the most critical period in the lactation cycle of dairy cows. Extended lactations reduce the frequency of transition periods, the number of calves and the related labour for farmers. This study aimed to assess the impact of 2 and 4 months extended lactations on milk yield and net partial cash flow (NPCF) at herd level, and on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of fat- and protein-corrected milk (FPCM), using a stochastic simulation model. The model simulated individual lactations for 100 herds of 100 cows with a baseline lactation length (BL), and for 100 herds with lactations extended by 2 or 4 months for all cows (All+2 and All+4), or for heifers only (H+2 and H+4). Baseline lactation length herds produced 887 t (SD: 13) milk/year. The NPCF, based on revenues for milk, surplus calves and culled cows, and costs for feed, artificial insemination, calving management and rearing of youngstock, was k€174 (SD: 4)/BL herd per year. Extended lactations reduced milk yield of the herd by 4.1% for All+2, 6.9% for All+4, 1.1% for H+2 and 2.2% for H+4, and reduced the NPCF per herd per year by k€7 for All+2, k€12 for All+4, k€2 for H+2 and k€4 for H+4 compared with BL herds. Extended lactations increased GHG emissions in CO2-equivalents per t FPCM by 1.0% for All+2, by 1.7% for All+4, by 0.2% for H+2 and by 0.4% for H+4, but this could be compensated by an increase in lifespan of dairy cows. Subsequently, production level and lactation persistency were increased to assess the importance of these aspects for the impact of extended lactations. The increase in production level and lactation persistency increased milk production of BL herds by 30%. Moreover, reductions in milk yield for All+2 and All+4 compared with BL herds were only 0.7% and 1.1% per year, and milk yield in H+2 and H+4 herds was similar to BL herds. The resulting NPCF was equal to BL for All+2 and All+4 and increased by k€1 for H+2 and H+4 due to lower costs for insemination and calving management. Moreover, GHG emissions per t FPCM were equal to BL herds or reduced (0% to -0.3%) when lactations were extended. We concluded that, depending on lactation persistency, extending lactations of dairy cows can have a positive or negative impact on the NPCF and GHG emissions of milk production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1074-1083
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Early online date22 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • dairy cow
  • lactation length
  • lactation persistency
  • milk yield
  • simulation model

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