Associations of breed and feeding management with milk production

M. Caccamo ,*1 R. F. Veerkamp ,† J. D. Ferguson ,‡ R. Petriglieri ,* F. La Terra ,* and G. Licitra *§

* CoRFiLaC, Regione Siciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
† Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen UR Livestock Research, PO Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, the Netherlands
‡ University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square 19348
§ Dipartimento di Scienze Agronomiche, Agrochimiche e delle Produzioni Animali (DACPA), Agriculture Faculty, Catania University,
95123 Catania, Italy


Earlier studies identified large between-herd variation in estimated lactation curve parameters from test-day milk yield and milk composition records collected in Ragusa province, Italy. The objective of this study was to identify sources of variation able to explain these between-herd differences in milk production curves, by estimating associations of animal breed (Holstein Friesian vs. Brown Swiss), feeding system [separate  feeding (SF) vs. total mixed ration (TMR)], and TMR chemical composition on milk and milk components herd curves. Data recorded from 1992 through 2007 for test-day (TD) milk, fat, and protein yields from 1,287,019 records of 148,951 lactations of 51,489 cows  in 427 herds were processed using a random regression TD model. Random herd curves (HCUR) for milk, fat, and protein yields were estimated from the model per herd, year, and parity (1, 2, and 3+) using 4-order Legendre polynomials. From March 2006 through December 2007, samples of TMR were collected every 3 mo from 37 farms in Ragusa province. Samples were  analyzed for dry matter, ash, crude protein, soluble nitrogen, acid detergent lignin, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, and starch. Traits used to describe milk production curves were peak, days in milk at peak, persistency, and mean. Association of feeding system and animal breed with HCUR traits was investigated using a general mixed model procedure. Association of TMR chemical composition with HCUR traits was investigated using multivariate analysis with regression and stepwise model selection. Results were consistent for all traits and parities. Feeding system was significantly associated with HCUR peak and mean, with higher values for TMR. Animal breed was significantly associated with HCUR persistency, with higher values for Brown Swiss herds. Furthermore, animal breed influenced HCUR peak and mean, with higher values for Holstein Friesian herds. Crude protein had the largest effect on HCUR peak and mean, whereas the interaction between crude protein and dry matter mainly affected persistency. When provided by a national evaluation system, HCUR can be used as an indicator of herd feeding management.

Keywords: herd curve, feeding management, testday model

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Margherita Caccamo

Ricercatore- Resp. CED