The effect of dairy heifer pre-breeding growth rate on first lactation milk yield in spring-calving, pasture-based herds
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CitationC.J. Hayes, C.G. McAloon, E.T. Kelly, C.I. Carty, E.G. Ryan, J.F. Mee, L. O'Grady, The effect of dairy heifer pre-breeding growth rate on first lactation milk yield in spring-calving, pasture-based herds, Animal, Volume 15, Issue 3, 2021, 100169, ISSN 1751-7311, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2020.100169.
AbstractOptimising heifer growth rate may offer an opportunity to improve lifetime milk yield per cow, enhancing the environmental and economic efficiency of dairy farming operations. The effect of dairy heifer pre-breeding average daily weight gain (ADGPB) on first lactation milk yield was investigated. This observational study employed a data set comprising 265 Holstein-Friesian, or Holstein-Friesian-cross-Jersey heifers from seven commercial, spring-calving, pasture-based dairy herds, where the major component of the diet was grazed grass. These were weighed at birth and prior to breeding and ADGPB was calculated. Milk recordings were performed throughout the heifers' first lactation and 305-day yield figures calculated from these records. Yields were corrected to 4% fat and 3.1% protein to create standardised 305-day milk yield (SMY), which was the outcome of interest. Median ADGPB was 0.72 kg/day. Median 305-day yield was 5 967 kg. Linear regression was used to investigate the effect of weight and genetic, age and first calving factors on SMY. Pre-breeding average daily weight gain, age at first calving and predicted transmitting abilities for milk protein production and calving interval were all significant in the final model, which also included the random effects of farm and month of calving within year. ADGPB was quadratically related to first lactation SMY, with an ADGPB of 0.82 kg/day corresponding to the maximum predicted SMY. The model predicted that a heifer growing at 0.82 kg/day would produce 1 120 kg more SMY than a heifer growing at 0.55 kg/day, 218 kg more than a heifer growing at 0.7 kg/day and 103 kg more than a heifer growing at 0.90 kg/day. Manipulation of heifer growth rate may offer a viable method of increasing first lactation milk yield.
FunderKildare Farmers' Group (Counties Wicklow and Kildare, Ireland); University College Dublin Veterinary Hospital
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