Distribution of seasonality of calving patterns and milk production in dairy herds across the United States

Fernanda C. Ferreira, John S. Clay, Albert De Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Calving patterns and milk production are seasonal throughout the United States; however, the distribution of seasonality, and the extent to which this seasonality is due to direct effects of climate on milk production and reproductive performance or farm management, is not well quantified. Summer-to-winter (SW) ratios have been used as measures of seasonality, but other measures such as low-to-peak (LP) ratios have been proposed. Our objectives were (1) to describe the distribution of seasonality in calving pattern and milk production among herds in the United States, (2) to compare SW and LP ratios of calving pattern and milk production, (3) to quantify the effect of a seasonal calving pattern, parity, and percentage of dry cows on seasonality of milk production, and (4) to describe the association between seasonality in calving pattern and milk production, herd size, and daily milk production per cow. The final data set contained Dairy Herd Improvement Association lactation records from 2015 from 5,292 (calving pattern) and 5,200 (milk production) herds for 41 states in the United States. We used generalized linear regression models with 1 sinusoidal curve to model calving pattern and milk production per cow for each herd. For milk production, a model adjusting for days in milk (DIM) and the interaction of DIM and parity (ADJ) and a model that was not adjusted (NO) were run. Both models included the effect of the percentage of dry cows. We used SW and LP ratios calculated from the parameters of the sinusoidal component of the models as measures of seasonality. The variability within states for all seasonality measures was large. The median LP ratio of calving pattern was 0.61, and small herds were more seasonal (LP ratio 0.56) than large herds (LP ratio 0.75). For milk production, the median LP ratio-NO was 0.88, and the LP ratio-ADJ was 0.90. Small herds were more seasonal (0.89) than large herds (0.92) when their LP ratios-ADJ were compared. States in the south of the United States were the most seasonal for calving patterns and milk production. Adjusting for DIM and parity increased the LP ratio of milk production by 8.9% for 66% of the herds. Adjusting for the percentage of dry cows increased the LP ratio in 72.9% of the herds by a median value of 21.8%. The correlations between SW and LP ratios were weak. Herds that were more seasonal for milk production had a lower average daily milk per cow than less-seasonal herds. In conclusion, seasonality in calving patterns and milk production among herds varied greatly across the United States. Sinusoidal models with covariates allowed for quantification of the effects of calving pattern, DIM, and parity on the seasonality in milk production. The LP ratios captured the maximum seasonality better than SW ratios did.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8161-8173
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • calving
  • milk
  • seasonality
  • sinusoidal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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