Review: Dry period length in dairy cows and consequences for metabolism and welfare and customised management strategies

A. Kok, Juncai Chen, B. Kemp, A.T.M. van Knegsel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Shortening or omitting the dry period improves the energy balance and metabolic status of dairy cows in early lactation. Metabolic, behaviour and welfare effects throughout lactation, however, are unclear. The current paper reviews long-term metabolic and welfare consequences of short and no dry period, as well as feeding strategies and individual cow characteristics that could support in optimising management of cows with a short or no dry period. The paper will conclude with impacts of short and no dry periods at herd level and in practice. Energy balance after no or a short dry period is more positive during the complete subsequent lactation. After the initial improvement in early lactation, cows after no dry period tend to fatten and may have a too low lactation persistency to be continuously milked until the onset of the subsequent lactation. Reducing dietary energy level for cows with no dry period reduced fattening during the complete lactation but did not improve lactation persistency. Feeding a more lipogenic diet for cows with a short or no dry period did not affect the energy balance or lactation persistency during the complete lactation, although a lipogenic diet resulted in lower plasma insulin and IGF-1 concentration and greater plasma growth hormone concentration, compared with a glucogenic diet. Effects of dry period length on udder health are ambiguous, whereas short and no dry periods improved fertility in most studies. Omission of the dry period changed behaviour of cows both before and after calving, with a longer lying time and greater feed intake after calving, suggesting a better adaptation to a new lactation. Individual cow characteristics like parity, genotype, prepartum body condition score, and milk yield level determined the metabolic response of cows to a short or no dry period. In conclusion, short or no dry periods increase the energy balance in the complete lactation. Feeding strategies can be used to limit fattening of cows with no or short dry period, but the studied feeding strategies did not increase lactation persistency. Improved fertility and behavioural changes around calving suggest a better adaptation to a new lactation in case of no dry period. Customised dry period lengths for individual cows could improve metabolic status of cows at risk of a severe negative energy balance while minimising milk losses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S42-S51
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
EventInternational Workshop on the Biology of Lactation in Farm Animals (BOLFA) - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: 25 Aug 201826 Aug 2018


  • behaviour
  • cow health
  • energy balance
  • transition period


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