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Associations of high and low milk protein concentrations with energy allocation, milk production, and concentrations of blood plasma metabolites and hormones in Holstein-Friesian cows

Douglas, M.L., Marett, L.C., Macmillan, K.L., Morton, J.M., Hannah, M.C., Fisher, A.D., Auldist, M.J.
Journal of dairy science 2016 v.99 no.12 pp. 10057-10066
Holstein, blood plasma, body condition, calving, dairy cows, dairy protein, early lactation, energy, farms, glucose, herds, insulin, insulin-like growth factor I, leptin, metabolites, milk, milk composition, milk synthesis, milk yield, nutrient partitioning, nutrients, profitability, reproductive performance
A positive association between milk protein concentration (MPC) and reproductive performance in dairy cows has been shown in several studies globally. This association may positively influence farm productivity and profitability, particularly in seasonally calving, pasture-based herds. However, the differences in milk production and energy allocation, physical characteristics, and blood plasma nutrient status between cows with differing MPC have not been examined, and the underlying mechanisms responsible for the association remain undefined. The objective of this study was to examine associations between MPC and nutrient partitioning in primiparous Holstein-Friesian cows managed under pasture-based dairying conditions, and to identify differences that may indicate the underlying mechanisms. Data were collected from 85 cows at regular intervals during the early part of the 2013 to 2014 seasonal lactation, including daily milk yield, weekly milk composition, weekly body condition score measurements, as well as weekly blood plasma metabolite and hormone concentrations. Cows were retrospectively separated into quartiles based on their average MPC during the first 120d of lactation, and comparisons were made between cows within the highest (high; 3.22 to 3.40%) and the lowest (low; 2.87 to 3.00%) MPC quartiles. The high-MPC cows had lower daily milk yields, yet did not differ in the daily yields of milk solids (protein + fat) compared with the low-MPC cows. After parturition, the high-MPC cows had greater blood plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1 and leptin compared with the low-MPC cows and maintained their body condition score, despite no differences in these variables prepartum. These results indicate an increased partitioning of nutrients toward milk synthesis at the expense of body condition for cows in the low MPC quartile. However, average daily energy outputs in milk were similar in the high- and low-MPC cows. The high-MPC cows calved 12d earlier in the seasonal calving period, reflecting superior reproductive performance when cows in this quartile were 15mo of age. These results suggest that at least part, but not all, of the reported associations between MPC and dairy cow fertility are related to nutrient status during early lactation. Further research is required to understand and use the association.