Relationships among body condition score, body weight, and milk production variables in pasture-based dairy cows

Roche, J.R.; Lee, J.M.; Macdonald, K.A.; Berry, D.P.

Journal of Dairy Science 90(8): 3802-3815


ISSN/ISBN: 1525-3198
PMID: 17638991
DOI: 10.3168/jds.2006-740
Accession: 016888146

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The objective of the present study was to identify and quantify relationships among dairy cow body condition score (BCS) and body weight (BW) and production variables in pasture-based, seasonal-calving herds. More than 2,500 lactation records from 897 spring-calving Holstein-Friesian and Jersey dairy cows were used in the analyses. Six variables related to BCS and BW, including observations precalving, at calving, and nadir as well as days to nadir and change precalving and between calving and nadir were generated. An exponential function was fitted within lactation to milk and 4% fat-corrected milk (FCM) yield data to model lactation curves. The milk production variables investigated were the parameters of the fitted function as well as accumulated yield of milk and FCM at 60 and 270 days in milk and average milk composition. Mixed models were used to identify BCS and BW variables that significantly affected milk production. After adjusting for the fixed effect of year of calving, parity, and days dry, milk and FCM yields were nonlinearly associated with calving and nadir BCS, increasing at a declining rate up to BCS 6.0 to 6.5 (10-point scale; approximately 3.5 in the 5-point scale) and declining thereafter. However, there was very little increase in milk and FCM yields above a calving BCS of 5.0 (approximately 3.0 in the 5-point scale). Average milk fat content over 60 and 270 days in milk was positively correlated with increasing calving and nadir BCS. In comparison, milk protein percentage was not influenced by calving BCS but was positively associated with nadir BCS and negatively associated with BCS lost between calving and nadir. The effect of BW and changes in BW were similar to the effect of BCS, although the scale of the effect was breed-dependent. For example, milk and FCM yield increased linearly with increasing calving BCS, but the effect was greater in Holstein-Friesians compared with Jersey cows. The results are consistent with the literature and highlight the important role that BCS and BW loss has on milk production, irrespective of the system of farming.