• Intake, efficiency, and feeding behavior characteristics of Holstein-Friesian cows of divergent Economic Breeding Index evaluated under contrasting pasture-based feeding treatments

      O'Sullivan, M.; Dillon, Pat; O'Sullivan, K.; Pierce, K.M.; Galvin, Norann; Egan, Michael; Buckley, Frank; Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine; 13/S/496 RAPIDFEED (Elsevier, 2019-07-03)
      The objective of the current study was to explore differences in dry matter intake, intake capacity, production efficiency, energy balance, and grazing behavior, of 2 divergent genetic groups (GG) of lactating Holstein-Friesian, selected using the Irish Economic Breeding Index (EBI). The GG were evaluated across 3 spring calving pasture-based feeding treatments (FT) over 3 yr. The 2 divergent GG were (1) high EBI, representative of the top 5% nationally (elite), and (2) EBI representative of the national average (NA). In each year 90 elite and 45 NA cows were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 FT: control, lower grass allowance, and high concentrate. Although FT did affect animal performance, there were few notable incidences of GG × FT interaction. The elite cows expressed lower daily milk yield (−1 kg) compared with NA. Elite cows did, however, express higher daily concentrations of milk fat (+3.7 g/kg) and protein (+2.1 g/kg) compared with NA. Daily yield of milk solids and net energy of lactation (NEL) was similar for both GG. Body weight (BW) was greater for NA (+13 kg) compared with elite, whereas mean body condition score was greater (+0.14) for elite compared with NA. Intake did not differ significantly between GG. Intake capacity, expressed as total dry matter intake/100 kg of BW, was greater with elite compared with NA. Production efficiency expressed as yield of milk solids per 100 kg of BW was greater with elite compared with NA, although milk solids/total dry matter intake did not differ between GG. Expressed as NEL as a proportion of net energy intake minus net energy of maintenance (NEL/NEI – NEM) and NEI/milk solids kg, indicated a slight reduction in the utilization of ingested energy for milk production with elite compared with NA. This is, however, suggested as favorable as it manifested as a more positive energy balance with elite compared with NA and so is likely to enhance robustness, increase longevity, and increase overall lifetime efficiency. Noteworthy was a consistent numerical trend toward more intense grazing activity with elite compared with NA cows, exhibited in the numerically greater grazing time (+19 min) and total number of bites per day (+2,591).