The objective of the study was to analyse the effect of age at first calving (AFC) on first lactation milk yield, lifetime milk production and longevity of dairy cows. The study used SYMLEK data on the milk yield and culling of 111 857 Polish Holstein-Friesian cows from the active population in Pomerania and Kujawy, Poland. The cows first calved during 2000–2009 and were used or removed from the herds until the end of 2015. For each cow, calculations were made of first lactation milk yield, lifetime milk production, first lactation milk yield per milking day, lifetime milk production per day, as well as the lifespan (length of productive life, duration of rearing) and number of calvings. Based on the age at first calving (duration of the rearing period), the cows were grouped as follows: ≤22, 22.1–24.0, 24.1–26.0, 26.1–28.0, 28.1–30.0, 30.1–32.0 and >32 months. The GLM, CORR PEARSON and FREQ procedures from the SAS package were used in the statistical calculations. Considering first lactation milk yield, lifetime milk production and longevity, it is recommended that the cows should be first milked between 22.1 and 26.0 months of age. This is supported by the approximately 24% higher lifetime milk production in relation to the latest calving cows (P<0.01). Late commencement of the first milking (especially after 28 months) causes a considerable decrease in the first lactation milk yield and lifetime milk production, shortens the productive period, reduces the number of calvings, and increases culling rate due to low milk yield and udder diseases.
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