Extended postpartum anoestrous intervals (PPAI) are the predominant source of infertility on New Zealand dairy farms. A 2 x 2 factorial design was used to investigate pre- and postpartum pasture feeding levels on PPAI. Sixty-eight multiparous Holstein-Friesian dairy cows due to calve in the first three weeks of the calving period were randomly assigned to a high (11.9 kg DM/cow/day) or low (4.8 kg DM/cow/day) pasture feeding intake for 29 ± 7.7 days pre partum. After calving, cows within each prepartum feeding level were assigned to a high (13.5 kg DM/cow/day) or low (8.6 kg DM/cow/day) pasture feeding intake for 35 days. At 35 days post partum, cows were grazed as a single group with pasture silage supplementation. Concentrations of progesterone were determined in milk samples collected on Mondays and Thursdays until cows were confirmed to have resumed oestrous cycles or until one week before planned start of mating. High intakes pre-calving increased (P < 0.05) the proportion of cows cycling by the third week postpartum (38 ± 8%) compared with a low pre-calving intake (13 ± 6%). There was a tendency (P = 0.07) for a reduced mean PPAI in the high (29.7 ± 2.6 days) versus low (33.4 ± 2.3 days) pre-calving intake treatments, among cows that initiated oestrous cycles during the experimental period. Post-calving intake did not affect PPAI (P = 0.4), nor was an interaction detected. Body condition score (BCS) at all time points in this study, including before treatments were initiated, was negatively correlated with PPAI (P < 0.05). In contrast, PPAI was not associated (P > 0.1) with changes in BCS during the pre- or post-calving periods, or with milk production characteristics. In this study, resumption of oestrous cycling post partum was strongly linked to pre-existing differences in BCS, and modified by pre-calving pasture intake, but not influenced by feeding intakes or milk production characteristics in early lactation. KEYWORDS: anoestrus; nutrition; dairy cow.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 221-224, 2005
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