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Improving early lactation performance for higher peak milk yield

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Quick facts

Successfully guiding cows through early lactation is key to their health and performance. Thus, nutrition and health during early lactation greatly affects peak milk yields. Preventing health problems and having good feed practices can improve peak milk yields

What is peak milk?

Peak milk is the highest recorded test day milk production in a cow’s first 150 days in milk (DIM). Historically, producers used peak milk as a measure of the success of dry period and early lactation nutrition and management. Peak milk indicates how well the cow responds to feeding practices during the dry period, calving and early lactation periods.

Most cows achieve peak milk by 45 to 90 DIM and then slowly lose production over time. Many cite that each added pound of peak milk could lead to 200 to 250 pounds more milk for the whole lactation.

Nutrition and health disorders in early lactation affect peak milk, see figure 1. For example, low dietary fiber diet/sorting can lead to rumen acidosis, which can result in lameness or displaced abomasum. Both conditions can cause reduced peak milk.

Ten ways to improve early lactation performance and peak milk yield


Noah Litherland, former Extension specialist

Reviewed in 2018

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