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Comparison of energy evaluation systems and a mechanistic model for milk production by dairy cattle offered fresh grass-based diets

Dijkstra, J., Kebreab, E., Bannink, A., Crompton, L.A., López, S., Abrahamse, P.A., Chilibroste, P., Mills, J.A.N., France, J.
Animal feed science and technology 2008 v.143 no.1-4 pp. 203-219
dairy cows, cow feeding, ruminant nutrition, grasses, diet, glucose, nutritive value, mechanistic models, energy balance, energy requirements, nutrients, milk yield
Grass-based diets are of increasing social-economic importance in dairy cattle farming, but their low supply of glucogenic nutrients may limit the production of milk. Current evaluation systems that assess the energy supply and requirements are based on metabolisable energy (ME) or net energy (NE). These systems do not consider the characteristics of the energy delivering nutrients. In contrast, mechanistic models take into account the site of digestion, the type of nutrient absorbed and the type of nutrient required for production of milk constituents, and may therefore give a better prediction of supply and requirement of nutrients. The objective of the present study is to compare the ability of three energy evaluation systems, viz. the Dutch NE system, the agricultural and food research council (AFRC) ME system, and the feed into milk (FIM) ME system, and of a mechanistic model based on Dijkstra et al. [Simulation of digestion in cattle fed sugar cane: prediction of nutrient supply for milk production with locally available supplements. J. Agric. Sci., Cambridge 127, 247-60] and Mills et al. [A mechanistic model of whole-tract digestion and methanogenesis in the lactating dairy cow: model development, evaluation and application. J. Anim. Sci. 79, 1584-97] to predict the feed value of grass-based diets for milk production. The dataset for evaluation consists of 41 treatments of grass-based diets (at least 0.75g ryegrass/g diet on DM basis). For each model, the predicted energy or nutrient supply, based on observed intake, was compared with predicted requirement based on observed performance. Assessment of the error of energy or nutrient supply relative to requirement is made by calculation of mean square prediction error (MSPE) and by concordance correlation coefficient (CCC). All energy evaluation systems predicted energy requirement to be lower (6-11%) than energy supply. The root MSPE (expressed as a proportion of the supply) was lowest for the mechanistic model (0.061), followed by the Dutch NE system (0.082), FIM ME system (0.097) and AFRC ME system (0.118). For the energy evaluation systems, the error due to overall bias of prediction dominated the MSPE, whereas for the mechanistic model, proportionally 0.76 of MSPE was due to random variation. CCC analysis confirmed the higher accuracy and precision of the mechanistic model compared with energy evaluation systems. The error of prediction was positively related to grass protein content for the Dutch NE system, and was also positively related to grass DMI level for all models. In conclusion, current energy evaluation systems overestimate energy supply relative to energy requirement on grass-based diets for dairy cattle. The mechanistic model predicted glucogenic nutrients to limit performance of dairy cattle on grass-based diets, and proved to be more accurate and precise than the energy systems. The mechanistic model could be improved by allowing glucose maintenance and utilization requirements parameters to be variable.