Missouri Dairy Business Update Commercial Agriculture
Volume 4, Number 6
June 2004

Frequent Milking

Effects of frequent milking on milk yield and udder health in early lactation.

By Barry Steevens, Extension Dairy Specialist. 2004

Several management tools are available to increase milk yield of lactating dairy cows. These include milking more frequently, such as shifting from 2X to 3X or recently reported on, increasing the milking frequency the first twenty one days of lactation. For example, a producer would milk the recently fresh cows 4X/2X or 3X/6X for the first twenty one days of lactation. The cows are milked first and last each milking. Results of this study would suggest as little as a two hour interval between the beginning and end of milking is adequate. After the twenty one day period the cows would be milked normal (either 2X or 3X) for the remainder of lactation.

In a recent research article by Dahl (2004) lactating dairy cows were milked 6X the first 21 days and 3X for the rest of the lactation. All cows were housed and managed together. Cows were put on bST according to label and fed a TMR three times daily after each milking. Milk yield and udder health data was recorded for the entire 305 day lactation. Overall cows milked 6X for the first 21 days produced 2460 lbs more milk (8 lbs/cow/day) for 305 days than herd mates which calved at a similar time. In addition to the production response, the 6X cows had a lower SCC as compared to controls. A possible explanation for the improved persistency factor is the 6X cows would have had double the number of "prolactin "releases the first 21 days. Prolactin promotes differentiation of mammary epithelial cells, and an increase in the number of milk secreting cells would be associated with a response to increased milk yield.


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