Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/21/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The acclimation of heifers to the milking parlor via prepartum milking may be beneficial to heifer postpartum production performance, and has been shown to improve postpartum heifer udder health (reduced udder edema). The objective of this study was to determine the impact of prepartum milking on postpartum milk production and associated performance characteristics in dairy heifers. Pregnant heifers (Holstein, n = 21, Jersey, n = 10) were assigned to either a prepartum milked (pre-milked; n = 15) or control (n = 16) treatment group. Pre-milked heifers were milked 2 X daily starting 3 wk prior to anticipated calving dates, and milk production recorded at each milking. All heifers were evaluated on d 21, 14, and 7 before calving, and 2 X weekly post-calving through 60 d postpartum. On these days, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), udder edema scores (0 = no edema apparent, 10 = severe edema) and milk conductivity readings were recorded. Milk production from pre-milked heifers increased (P<.01) from 2.3 + .62 kg at 3 wk prior to calving to 10.1+.95 kg within 1 wk of calving and did not differ (P>.10) between breeds. Post-calving milk production was higher (P<.0001) for Holstein than Jersey heifers, but did not differ (P>.10) by treatment within breed. While BW and BCS did not change pre-calving within breed relative to treatment (P>.10), post-calving BW and BCS were decreased (P < .05). Overall through wk 6 postpartum pre-milked heifers had lower (P<.01) udder edema scores than control heifers (1.9+.22 and 3.0+.26, respectively), and through wk 5 had lower (P<.0001) milk conductivity readings (indicative of fewer incidences of udder infections) than control heifers. Therefore, while udder health was improved post-calving in pre-milked heifers compared to controls, other production performance characteristics remained unaffected.