The effect of non-nutritional factors on milk urea nitrogen levels in dairy cows in Prince Edward Island, Canada

P Arunvipas, I R Dohoo, J A VanLeeuwen, G P Keefe
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 2003 May 30, 59 (1): 83-93
We determined the effects of non-nutritional factors such as breed, parity, days in milk (DIM), milk production, milk quality and milk components on milk urea nitrogen (MUN) concentration. A total of 177 dairy farms in Prince Edward Island containing 10,688 lactating dairy cows participated in the project. Individual-cow milk samples (n=68,158) were collected monthly from July 1999 to June 2000 from each farm. MUN was measured using a Fossomatic 4000 Milkoscan Analyzer at the PEI Milk Quality Laboratory. Descriptive statistics for MUN, parity, DIM, and test-day milk yield, fat and protein were calculated. Mixed linear-regression models were used; "cow" and "herd" were included as random effects to control for the effect of clustering of MUN test dates within cow, and clustering of cows within herd, respectively. The MUN was lower during the first month of lactation, peaked at 4 months of lactation, and decreased later in lactation. A positive relationship existed between MUN concentration and milk yield, while negative relationships with milk protein% and linear score were observed. A quadratic relationship existed between milk fat% and MUN concentration, with higher MUN occurring at mid-range fat percentages. The variation at the herd and cow levels in the model were 19.7 and 19.0%, respectively; while the variation at the test date level was 61.3%. The non-nutritional factors studied explained 13.3% of the variation in MUN.

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