Length of dairy cow life is a topic with many facets and current pertinent questions. Dairy cows complete on average fewer than three lactations before they are culled in the US but productive lifespan in other developed dairy countries may be substantially longer. Extended productive life is said to be good for sustainability and the image of the dairy sector. Culling and replacement are the result of the availability of heifers and the relative performance of cows in a herd, such as health, reproduction, and milk production. Aging and husbandry including nutrition and breeding affect health and performance. With the availability of sexed semen and increasing reproductive efficiency, dairy farmers can make many more heifers than they need. Economic decision making plays an important role in how long dairy cattle live. However, when cows should be replaced and what replacement rates should be remains an open-ended question, despite advances in husbandry, precision dairy farming technologies and decision support.
This ADSA Discover ConferenceSM will focus on the scientific advancements and questions and new perspectives about the important topic of dairy cattle productive lifespan. Compared to the previous DISCOVER conference on cow culling in 2004, new factors such as sexed semen, genomic testing, beef-on-dairy, increased milk production and health, and sustainability warrant a fresh look at the topic of dairy cattle lifespan.