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Analysis of milk solids production and mid-lactation bodyweight to evaluate cow production efficiency on commercial dairy farms

Abstract : The efficient production of milk is an important determinant of both, farm productivity and the environmental impact of intensive dairy systems. The objective of the present study was to use a large dataset of commercial dairy cows to determine the relationship among animal breed, Irish total merit index (Economic Breeding Index; EBI), parity, and production efficiency parameters, which included milk solids (MS) production per kg of mid-lactation bodyweight (MSperBW) and the estimated net energy requirement per kg of MS produced (ENperMS). Data from 80 different spring-calving commercial dairy herds located in southern Ireland comprising 20,051 cows across 34,002 lactations from Holstein-Friesian (HF) and Jersey × Holstein-Friesian crossbred (JFX) cows were accessible for the study across 4 years. The data available included individual cow EBI, 305-day MS production, which is kg fat yield plus kg protein yield, calving and dry-off dates, and a mid-lactation bodyweight (BW) at 143 ± 26 days in milk. To evaluate the productive efficiency in this study, firstly, individual cow MSperBW was calculated by dividing 305-day MS production by mid-lactation BW, with higher values being desirable (Prendiville et al., 2009; O'Sullivan et al., 2019a). Secondly, ENperMS was established by dividing the total net energy requirement (in Unité Fourragère Lait; UFL) for an animal for maintenance (from BW), milk production, and growth (for animals up to lactation 3) by the 305-day MS production (INRA, 2010; Faverdin et al., 2011), where lower values indicate increased efficiency due to lower energy requirement per unit output. Statistical analyses were undertaken using mixed models. Overall, average MSperBW was 0.94 ±0.16 kg MS/ kg BW with large variation between animals within herds (0.42 to 1.47 kg MS/ kg BW) and between herds (0.73 to 1.14 kg MS/ kg BW). Similarly, ENperMS on farm averaged 9.8 total UFL/ kg MS ranging from 9.0 to 10.9 total UFL/ kg MS between farms. The MSperBW was significantly greater for JFX (1.01 kg MS/ kg BW) compared to HF animals (0.92 kg MS/ kg BW), resulting in a reduction in total energy requirements per kg of MS produced (ENperMS) (9.5 vs. 9.8 total UFL/ kg MS for JFX and HF, respectively). Animals with increased MSperBW produced 140 kg/cow more MS per 305-day lactation and were 58 kg lighter than lower MSperBW contemporaries. These results corroborate the benefits of both, selection on EBI and crossbreeding to increase aforementioned production efficiency parameters within intensive grazing systems. The results also provide a further compelling basis for dairy farmers to routinely weigh and milk record their herds to identify more efficient animals on which to increase animal performance and profitability in future generations.
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Contributor : Emilie Bernard <>
Submitted on : Monday, September 6, 2021 - 1:31:03 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 3:30:34 AM


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S. H. Evers, S. Mcparland, Luc Delaby, K. M. Pierce, B. Horan. Analysis of milk solids production and mid-lactation bodyweight to evaluate cow production efficiency on commercial dairy farms. Livestock Science, Elsevier, 2021, 252, pp.104691. ⟨10.1016/j.livsci.2021.104691⟩. ⟨hal-03335620⟩



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