The objectives of the current experiment were to determine the effects of 2 prepartum stocking densities on milk yield, concentration of metabolites during the peripartum period, and health and reproductive parameters of dairy cows. Jersey cows enrolled in the experiment at 254 ± 3 d of gestation were balanced for parity (nulliparous vs. parous) and previous lactation projected 305-d mature equivalent milk yield (parous) and assigned to 1 of 2 treatments: 80% headlock stocking density (80SD; 38 animals/48 headlocks) and 100% headlock stocking density (100SD; 48 animals/48 headlocks). The number of experimental units was 8 (4 replicates and 2 pens/treatment per replicate). In total, 154 nulliparous and 184 parous animals were enrolled in the 80SD treatment and 186 nulliparous and 232 parous animals were enrolled in the 100SD treatment. At the start of each replicate, treatments were switched within pen. Cows were milked thrice daily and monthly milk yield, fat and protein content, and somatic cell count data were recorded up to 155 d postpartum. Plasma nonesterified fatty acid concentration was measured weekly, from -18 ± 3 to 17 ± 3 d relative to calving, and plasma β-hydroxybutyrate was measured weekly, from 1 ± 2 to 17 ± 3 d relative to calving. Cows were examined 1, 4 ± 1, 7 ± 1, 10 ± 1, and 13 ± 1 d relative to calving for diagnosis of uterine diseases. Blood was sampled for determination of progesterone concentration and resumption of ovarian cycles 35 ± 3 and 45 ± 3 d relative to calving. Average headlock (74.1 ± 0.4 vs. 94.5 ± 0.3%) and stall (80.8 ± 0.4 vs. 103.1 ± 0.4%) stocking density was lower for the 80SD treatment compared with the 100SD treatment. Treatment did not affect incidence of retained fetal membranes (80SD = 5.1, 100SD = 7.8%), metritis (80SD = 21.2, 100SD = 16.7%), acute metritis (80SD = 9.9, 100SD = 9.4%), and vaginal purulent discharge (80SD = 5.8, 100SD = 7.9%). Concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids (80SD = 251.5 ± 6.1, 100SD = 245.9 ± 5.6 μmol/L) and β-hydroxybutyrate (80SD = 508.2 ± 14.3, 100SD = 490.9 ± 13.6 μmol/L) were not different between treatments. Treatment had no effect on percentage of cows removed from the herd on the first 60 d postpartum (80SD = 6.1, 100SD = 5.1%) and on rate of removal from the herd up to 305 d postpartum 80SD = referent, 100SD [adjusted hazard ratio (95% confidence interval)] = 1.02 (0.75, 1.38). Percentages of cows pregnant to first (80SD = 41.9, 100SD = 48.4%) and second (80SD = 49.3, 100SD = 42.0%) postpartum AI were not different between treatments. Finally, treatment did not affect energy-corrected milk yield up to 155 d postpartum (80SD = 33.8 ± 0.5, 100SD = 33.4 ± 0.5 kg/d). In herds with weekly or twice weekly movement of new cows to the prepartum pen and separate housing of nulliparous and parous animals, a target stocking density of 100% of headlocks on the day of movement is not expected to affect health, metabolic, reproductive, and productive parameters.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the owner, manager, and staff of New Sweden Dairy (Nicollet, MN). This experiment was partially funded by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (St. Paul) through Rapid Agriculture Response Fund grant .
- Prepartum cow
- Stocking density