The main objective of this research was to investigate whether calculating intake of dairy cows using equations to predict energy requirements provides a good alternative to conventional ways of estimating intake. The method was applied to data from the Dexcel Holstein-Friesian strain trial over three seasons. Feed intake per cow was calculated as the sum of the energy requirements for maintenance, milk production, pregnancy, growth and body tissue mobilisation using measured yields of milk, fat, protein and lactose, live weight and body condition score of cows and calf live weights. In order to compare the estimates of feed intake to the amount of feed offered, linear regressions of calculated (ME) intake (grouped by farmlet) on the amount ME offered per farmlet were performed by season. The relationship between ME intake and ME offered was weak in the first year, with a limited response to increasing the amount of feed offered. This was because all the cows were two-year-olds with lower live weights and milk yields and consequently lower feed intakes. In the subsequent two years of the trial, the relationship between ME intake calculated using the energy equations were 67% and 72%. The modern strains of dairy cows responded well to higher levels of feed offered, while the 1970s strain of New Zealand dairy cows failed to increase intake when offered diets of higher total ME. Our results show that energy prediction equations offer a viable and cheap alternative of estimating ME intake of lactating dairy cows. KEYWORDS: dairy cows; energy intake; strain comparison; efficiency.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 225-230, 2005
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