Genetic profile of total body energy content of Holstein cows in the first three lactations

G Banos*, S Brotherstone, MP Coffey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Weekly total body energy content (TBEC) was calculated for 444 Holstein cows in their first 3 lactations. These calculations were based on body lipid and protein changes predicted from weekly changes in body condition score and live weight of each cow. In first lactation, cows lost TBEC during the initial 8 wk, regained it by wk 22, and continued to build up their reserves until wk 37. Cows started lactations 2 and 3 with considerable reserves from the dry period that they used during the first 13 wk of lactation. Variance components for TBEC were estimated using random regression analysis allowing for heterogeneous residual variance. The genetic variance increased within each lactation, suggesting that the genetic component becomes more important as lactation progresses. The genetic correlations between very early ( wk 1 to 4) and later stages of first lactation were near zero but they increased considerably between later lactation stages. Genetic correlations between TBEC on wk 5 of first lactation and the remainder of this lactation ranged from 0.64 for the more distant weeks to 0.99 for the immediately subsequent weeks. Genetic correlations with TBEC in second lactation were moderately high (0.68 to 0.70) for the early weeks ( 1 to 8) and decreased gradually to 0.56 for weeks at the end of lactation. For third lactation, these estimates ranged from 0.53 to 0.63. Genetic correlation estimates of TBEC in wk 12 of first lactation with subsequent first-lactation weeks varied from 0.79 to 0.99, whereas they ranged from 0.65 to 0.77 and from 0.57 to 0.68 in second and third lactations, respectively. The genetic correlation between TBEC in later weeks of first lactation and the rest of productive life increased as first lactation progressed, but the improvement diminished. Weekly genetic evaluations for first-lactation TBEC were used to predict second- and third-lactation energy content. The accuracy of these predictions increased with progressing weeks in first lactation, but about three-fourths of the improvement occurred by wk 5. Our results suggest that TBEC calculated after a month from the first calving may give useful information about the future energy content of a cow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2616-2623
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


  • lactation
  • total body energy content
  • dairy cattle
  • genetic variation


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