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Selko HealthyLife | Health and Fertility

Programme for Sustainable Dairy Farming

Increasing longevity of dairy cows

Top 10% farmers in the Netherlands are above 5 lactations per cow

A common challenge for dairy farmers across the world is to increase longevity of their dairy herd. The average number of lactations across the world is about 3 lactations per animal (see Figure 1). This average is fairly constant between countries with a high milk production compared to countries with a low milk production. It is known however that the number of lactations per cow varies enormously within countries. The average number of lactations in the Netherlands for example is 3.5 lactations per cow, but the best 10% of Dutch farmers are above 5 lactations per cow.

Figure 1, Average annual milk production per cow and average number of lactations per cow in 26 countries.

Preventing systemic immune activation has a great impact

Recently, it has become clear that systemic immune activation and inflammation are responsible for a lot of the problems with performance, health and fertility that result in early culling of dairy cows following a poor transition to lactation81.

The origin of immune activation are often the reproductive tract, the mammary gland, or the gastrointestinal tract. Preventing systemic immune activation throughout the entire production cycle will therefore have a great impact on health, performance, fertility82 (see Figure 2) and longevity of a dairy herd.

The transition to lactation is an important risk period for systemic immune activation. Next to that, drying off cows can be an important source of systemic inflammation83. Systemic immune activation at drying off can result in liver damage that still has a negative impact on transition to the subsequent lactation.

Due to global warming, heat tress is becoming a common problem in dairy cows, also if they live in moderate climates66. Heat stress results in systemic immune activation as it induces “leaky gut”69 and increases the risk to develop mastitis80.

Figure 2, Cleaved embryos, live embryos (grades 1 to 3), and high quality embryos (grades 1 and 2) as percentage of ova-embryos recovered (without *) or as percentage of embryos recovered (with *), according to the incidence of disease.

Increasing longevity of dairy cows with the HealthyLife programme

Longevity of dairy cows has the biggest impact on Lifetime Daily Yield. Improving the transition to lactation will result in an increase of longevity but also an increase of milk production in the next lactation.

Calculate your profit!

See how sustainable dairy farming will result in more profitability of your farm

In contrast to common belief, it is very well possible to run a farm in a sustainable way while generating a healthy income.

Calculate your profit by influencing the 4 key HealthyLife indicators that help improve the Lifetime Daily Yield on your farm.

Learn more about health and fertility in dairy cows: