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Researching 100 t cows : an innovative approach to identify intrinsic cows factors associated with a high lifetime milk production

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Longevity is an important trait both from an economic and social perspective. Modern dairy cows are criticized for their short productive lifespan: only a minority of animals survives to a fourth lactation, implying that most cows are culled before reaching their maximal potential. In contrast, the population of 100 t cows (HT), reaching the threshold of 100,000 kg lifetime milk yield, is growing rapidly. As these cows combine a long lifespan with high functionality, a better understanding of their intrinsic characteristics might help us to improve the overall lifespan and lifetime production in dairy cows. The aim of the present research was to compare HT with their less-producing herd mates in order to identify intrinsic cow factors associated with longevity and high lifetime production. Therefore, we matched 26,248 HT with 691,597 herd mates, born in the same year in the same herd. Data were provided by Coo center dot peratie rundveeverbetering (CRV) and contained birth dates, calving dates, milk yield and dam information. In addition, scores for conformation traits based on classifications in the first lactation and breeding values (for milk yield, fertility, udder health and claw health) were provided. Multivariable conditional logistic regression models were built to identify factors associated with reaching a lifetime milk yield of 100,000 kg. Results revealed cows born in September and born out of heifers to have the highest odds to become a HT. When cows received a score >= 83 (population average 80) for udder and feet & legs conformation, they had higher odds of reaching the 100,000 kg threshold. While a greater body condition and larger rump angle increased the odds of becoming a HT, this was decreased in cows with a large body depth. Finally, breeding values for milk yield, fertility, udder health and claw health were positively associated with the likelihood of reaching a lifetime milk yield of 100,000 kg. In conclusion, to increase lifetime milk yield in dairy herds, farmers should select heifers with high scores for conformation traits like udder and feet & legs and high breeding values for milk yield, fertility and udder health. Furthermore, our data suggest that being born in September out of a heifer potentially contributes to reaching a high lifetime milk yield.
ISSN: 1873-1716
Volume: 193
Publication year:2021