Analysis of milk urea nitrogen and lactose and their effect on longevity in Canadian dairy cattle

F Miglior, A Sewalem, J Jamrozik, D M Lefebvre, R K Moore
Journal of Dairy Science 2006, 89 (12): 4886-94
The aim of this study was to assess the phenotypic level of lactose and milk urea nitrogen concentration (MUN) and the association of these traits with functional survival of Canadian dairy cattle using a Weibull proportional hazards model. A total of 1,568,952 test-day records from 283,958 multiparous Holstein cows from 4,758 herds, and 79,036 test-day records from 26,784 multiparous Ayrshire cows from 384 herds, calving from 2001 to 2004, were used for the phenotypic analysis. The overall average lactose percentage and MUN for Ayrshires were 4.49% and 12.20 mg/dL, respectively. The corresponding figures for Holsteins were 4.58% and 11.11 mg/dL. Concentration of MUN increased with parity number, whereas lactose percentage decreased in later parities. Data for survival analysis consisted of 39,536 first-lactation cows from 1,619 herds from 2,755 sires for Holsteins and 2,093 cows in 228 herds from 157 sires for Ayrshires. Test-day lactose percentage and MUN were averaged within first lactation. Average lactose percentage and MUN were grouped into 5 classes (low, medium-low, medium, medium-high, and high) based on mean and standard deviation values. The statistical model included the effects of stage of lactation, season of production, the annual change in herd size, type of milk-recording supervision, age at first calving, effects of milk, fat, and protein yields calculated as within herd-year-parity deviations, herd-year-season of calving, lactose percentage and MUN classes, and sire. The relative culling rate was calculated for animals in each class after accounting for the remaining effects included in the model. Results showed that there was a statistically significant association between lactose percentage and MUN in first lactation with functional survival in both breeds. Ayrshire cows with high and low concentration of MUN tended to be culled at a higher than average rate. Instead, Holstein cows had a linear association, with decreasing relative risk of culling with increasing levels of MUN concentration. The relationship between lactose percentage and survival was similar across breeds, with higher risk of culling at low level of lactose, and lower risk of culling at high level of lactose percentage.

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