• Milk production of Holstein-Friesian cows of divergent Economic Breeding Index evaluated under seasonal pasture-based management

      O'Sullivan, Margaret; Horan, Brendan; Pierce, Karina M.; McParland, Sinead; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Buckley, Frank (Elsevier, 2019-01-03)
      The objective of this study was to validate the effect of genetic improvement using the Irish genetic merit index, the Economic Breeding Index (EBI), on total lactation performance and lactation profiles for milk yield, milk solids yield (fat plus protein; kg), and milk fat, protein, and lactose content within 3 pasture-based feeding treatments (FT) and to investigate whether an interaction exists between genetic group (GG) of Holstein-Friesian and pasture-based FT. The 2 GG were (1) extremely high EBI representative of the top 5% nationally (referred to as the elite group) and (2) representative of the national average EBI (referred to as the NA group). Cows from each GG were randomly allocated each year to 1 of 3 pasture-based FT: control, lower grass allowance, and high concentrate. The effects of GG, FT, year, parity, and the interaction between GG and FT adjusted for calving day of year on milk and milk solids (fat plus protein; kg) production across lactation were studied using mixed models. Cow was nested within GG to account for repeated cow records across years. The overall and stage of lactation-specific responses to concentrate supplementation (high concentrate vs. control) and reduced pasture allowance (lower grass allowance vs. control) were tested. Profiles of daily milk yield, milk solids yield, and milk fat, protein, and lactose content for each week of lactation for the elite and NA groups within each FT and for each parity group within the elite and NA groups were generated. Phenotypic performance was regressed against individual cow genetic potential based on predicted transmitting ability. The NA cows produced the highest milk yield. Milk fat and protein content was higher for the elite group and consequently yield of solids-corrected milk was similar, whereas yield of milk solids tended to be higher for the elite group compared with the NA group. Milk lactose content did not differ between GG. Responses to concentrate supplementation or reduced pasture allowance did not differ between GG. Milk production profiles illustrated that elite cows maintained higher production but with lower persistency than NA cows. Regression of phenotypic performance against predicted transmitting ability illustrated that performance was broadly in line with expectation. The results illustrate that the superiority of high-EBI cattle is consistent across diverse pasture-based FT. The results also highlight the success of the EBI to deliver production performance in line with the national breeding objective: lower milk volume with higher fat and protein content.