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J. Dairy Sci. 2008. 91:3710-3715. doi:10.3168/jds.2007-0943
2008 American Dairy Science Association

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Death Losses for Lactating Cows in Herds Enrolled in Dairy Herd Improvement Test Plans

R. H. Miller1, M. T. Kuhn, H. D. Norman and J. R. Wright

Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

1 Corresponding author: millerrh{at}juno.com

Factors that affect frequency of death of lactating cows were studied for cows with records that terminated from 1995 through 2005. Analyses included effects of herd, year, month, parity, and lactation stage at lactation termination as well as cow breed and milk yield. A national data set (15,025,035 lactations in 45,032 herds) was analyzed with PROC GLM. Overall death frequency was 3.1% per lactation (5.7% per cow). Death frequency increased by 1.6% from 1995 to 2005, with a sudden increase of 0.9% from 2003 to 2004, probably because of a USDA requirement in late 2003 for euthanizing downer cows. Death frequency was 16.5% greater for lactations that terminated at ≤45 d than for those that terminated at ≥251 d. Death frequency increased with parity (2% greater for eighth parity and later than for first parity) and with lactation milk yield (0.4%/1,000 kg for Holsteins and Jerseys and 0.5%/1,000 kg for other breeds). Deaths were most frequent in July and least frequent in November. Within-herd breed differences (Holstein, Jersey, and other breeds) were small. The heritability of likelihood of death estimated from a sample of 79,162 Holstein cows was 1.3%. Death losses are increasing, perhaps partly because of increased milk yield and more intensive management regimens.

Key Words: death loss death frequency lactation termination







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