Evaluation of five lactation curve models fitted for fat:protein ratio of milk and daily energy balance

N Buttchereit, E Stamer, W Junge, G Thaller
Journal of Dairy Science 2010, 93 (4): 1702-12
Selection for milk yield increases the metabolic load of dairy cows. The fat:protein ratio of milk (FPR) could serve as a measure of the energy balance status and might be used as a selection criterion to improve metabolic stability. The fit of different fixed and random regression models describing FPR and daily energy balance was tested to establish appropriate models for further genetic analyses. In addition, the relationship between both traits was evaluated for the best fitting model. Data were collected on a dairy research farm running a bull dam performance test. Energy balance was calculated using information on milk yield, feed intake per day, and live weight. Weekly FPR measurements were available. Three data sets were created containing records of 577 primiparous cows with observations from lactation d 11 to 180 as well as records of 613 primiparous cows and 96 multiparous cows with observations from lactation d 11 to 305. Five well-established parametric functions of days in milk (Ali and Schaeffer, Guo and Swalve, Wilmink, Legendre polynomials of third and fourth degree) were chosen for modeling the lactation curves. Evaluation of goodness of fit was based on the corrected Akaike information criterion, the Bayesian information criterion, correlation between the real observation and the estimated value, and on inspection of the residuals plotted against days in milk. The best model was chosen for estimation of correlations between both traits at different lactation stages. Random regression models were superior compared with the fixed regression models. In general, the Ali and Schaeffer function appeared most suitable for modeling both the fixed and the random regression part of the mixed model. The FPR is greatest in the initial lactation period when energy deficit is most pronounced. Energy balance stabilizes at the same point as the decrease in FPR stops. The inverted patterns indicate a causal relationship between the 2 traits. A common pattern was also observed for repeatabilities of both traits, with repeatabilities being largest at the beginning of lactation. Additionally, correlations between cow effects were closest at the beginning of lactation (r(c)=-0.43). The results support the hypothesis that FPR can serve as a suitable indicator for energy status, at least during the most metabolically stressful stage of lactation.

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