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A large-scale study on the effect of age at first calving, dam parity, and birth and calving month on first-lactation milk yield in Holstein Friesian dairy cattle

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Milk yield during first lactation is an important economical trait. Age at first calving (AFC) is considered an important predictor of subsequent milk yield. In addition, both season of birth, as well as season of calving, have been shown to influence milk production, with conflicting results. Finally, higher parity of the dam has been associated with a lower performance of the offspring. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of the above-mentioned factors based on a large-scale study and to rank the most important determinants for first-lactation milk yield. Data on 3,810,678 Holstein Friesian heifers, born in Belgium and the Netherlands between 2000 and 2015, were provided by Cooperative CRV and CRV BV (Arnhem, the Netherlands) and consisted of birth dates, calving dates, and first-lactation productions. In addition, herd, sire, and dam information was provided. Linear regression models were built with herd-calving year and sire as random effects and 305-d energy-corrected milk (ECM) yield during first lactation as outcome variable. Birth month, calving month, parity of the dam, and AFC were included as fixed effects in the model and a dominance analysis was performed to rank the associated factors according to importance. Results revealed AFC to be the most important factor (R-2 = 0.047), with an increase in ECM up to an age of 33 mo. Calving month was a more important predictor than birth month (R-2 = 0.010 vs. R-2 = 0.002, respectively), with the highest first-lactation production in heifers calving in October to December, and the lowest in heifers calving in June and July. Birth month had a limited effect on first-lactation milk yield (R-2 = 0.002), potentially masked by rearing strategies during early life. Finally, parity of the dam >= 3 was associated with a reducedECM of the offspring (R-2 = 0.002). In conclusion, our results show AFC to be an important determinant of milk yield during first lactation. In addition, seasonal patterns in milk production are seen, which should be further explored to identify the underlying mechanism.
ISSN: 1525-3198
Issue: 12
Volume: 103
Pages: 11515 - 11523
Publication year:2020