Effects of continuous lactation and short dry periods on mammary function and animal health

R. J. Collier, E. L. Annen-Dawson, A. Pezeshki

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    50 Scopus citations


    The dry period is required to facilitate cell turnover in the bovine mammary gland in order to optimize milk yield in the next lactation. Traditionally, an 8-week dry period has been a standard management practice for dairy cows based on retrospective analyses of milk yields following various dry period lengths. However, as milk production per cow has increased, transitioning cows from the nonlactating state to peak milk yield has grown more problematic. This has prompted new studies on dry period requirements for dairy cows. These studies indicate a clear parity effect on dry period requirement. First parity animals require a 60-day dry period, whereas lactations following later parities demonstrate no negative impact with 30-day dry period or even eliminating the dry period when somatotropin (ST) is also used to maintain milk yields. Shortened dry periods in first parity animals were associated with reduced mammary cell turnover during the dry period and early lactation and increased numbers of senescent cells and reduced functionality of lactating alveolar mammary cells postpartum. Use of ST and increased milking frequency postpartum reduced the impact of shortened dry periods. The majority of new intramammary infections occur during the dry period and persist into the following lactation. There is therefore the possibility of altering mastitis incidence by modifying or eliminating the dry period in older parity animals. As the composition of mammary secretions including immunoglobulins may be reduced when the dry period is reduced or eliminated, there is the possibility that the immune status of cows during the peripartum period is influenced by the length of the dry period.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)403-414
    Number of pages12
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Mar 2012


    • dry period
    • health
    • mammary cell
    • mammary gland
    • milk yield

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology


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