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14 Oct 2021

Lactation persistency - a useful management tool

Did you know that flat lactation curves are believed to be associated with fewer health and reproduction problems in your dairy cows? Take the opportunity to use this information as a modern tool in your dairy operation.

Since 2006, the Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluation (NAV) has calculated breeding values for persistency, which provides information about the shape of the lactation curve.

For example, bulls with EBV (Estimated Breeding Values) above 100 (high persistency) will produce daughters that have a flatter lactation curve with a lower yield than expected in the first part of the lactation, and a higher yield than expected in the last part of the lactation, compared to bulls with a lower EBV for persistency.

Recently, dairy farmers have shown an increased interest in lactation persistency as a management tool because flat lactation curves are believed to be associated with fewer health and reproduction problems.

VikingHolstein cow

Achieving higher efficiency

Would you like to become a more attractive partner for dairy because you deliver your milk and offer a more stable milk supply throughout the year? Then it is important to understand how to use lactation persistency as a management tool because later peak yield and a flatter lactation curve result in higher persistency.  

Knowing the current lactation curve in your dairy herd gives you more possibilities to improve and develop your operation since you can use the Persistency index as a tool to shift your business in the right direction. With persistency as a tool, you are also able to feed your dairy cows more accurately according to their genetic potential.

 

Higher persistency = less stress on cows

 A flat lactation curve puts less stress on the cow, and that reduces the risk of problems caused by a negative energy balance. If you choose to focus on improving persistency, you benefit from an easier-to-manage herd with strong health and fertility. You utilize resources in the most efficient way.

High persistency bulls will produce daughters that have a flatter lactation curve with a lower yield than expected in the first part of the lactation, and a higher yield than expected in the last part of the lactation.

When looking for the bulls to improve persistency, pick the sires that have a breeding value (EBV) for Persistency above 100. A higher value means better persistency.

VikingRed cow

Persistency in practical use

  • Persistency is not included in NTM (Nordic Total Merit) mainly because it has no positive effect on economic gain. However, the genetic gain for persistency is positive given the current weighting of traits in NTM.
  • Persistency is favorably associated with yield, longevity, and udder health whereas the association with milking speed and general health is slightly unfavorable.
  • For management purposes, a flat lactation curve should always be considered as it puts less stress on the cow, i.e., the energy balance is less negative
  • In special circumstances such as seasonal calving combined with heavy pasture grazing, cow performance in early lactation is important for utilizing the high feed availability.
What is your dairy business?
VikingJersey cow 3rd lactation