Lifetime records of 442 Holstein cows on one farm in North Queensland, Australia, were analysed to evaluate the effects of age at first calving (afc) and first lactation milk yield on parities per lifetime, longevity, milk yield in subsequent lactations, lifetime milk production and the longevity index (li), that is the proportion of a cow's life spent in active milk production. The mean daily yield in the first lactation was a reliable indicator of milk yield in subsequent lactations, estimated lifetime production, longevity and li. The afc had no effect on lifetime days in milk. Neither the afc nor the milk yield in the first lactation significantly affected the number of parities per lifetime. For the majority of cows, which produced less than 30 l/day in the first lactation, there was a significant positive relationship between longevity and afc. However, none of the cows that produced more than 30 l/day in the first lactation survived for more than two lactations. The optimal afc was thus two to two-and-a-half years, as these cows had the highest first lactation yield, estimated lifetime production and li. The optimal mean daily yield in the first lactation was 20 to 30 l/day, as these cows lived longer and had a higher li and lifetime production.