An investigation into genetic and phenotypic variation in time budgets and yield of dairy cows

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Time budgets (TB) of lactating Holstein cows in a freestall loose housing system were recorded twice in early and late lactation to study genetic and phenotypic variation in TB. Time budget traits were recorded using focal animal scanning at 10-min intervals for full 24-h sessions. The study included 243 first-lactation cows, with 389 TB records in early lactation (50 to 123 d in milk) and 403 records in late lactation (152 to 248 d in milk). Milk was recorded at 3-wk intervals during the same periods, and yield was expressed as energy-corrected milk. Time budget traits were analyzed with mixed linear models to obtain estimates of genetic variation (heritability) and permanent animal variance (repeatability). Correlations between TB traits and energy-corrected milk yield were estimated at the individual cow level. In early lactation, the cows spent, on average, 5.0 h eating and 1.8 h at feed gates without eating while they were still locked in the gates. Cows lay down for 10.4 h and stood in stalls for 3.2 h. The cows also spent 2.8 h standing in aisles, but only 0.5 h in the milking area. In late lactation, cows spent 1 h more lying, but less time standing in stalls and less time eating and at the feed gates. Time budget traits were moderately repeatable although highly consistent across lactation stages. Estimates of heritability were moderate for eating time (0.20) but almost zero for lying time. Correlations showed that cows with higher yield spent more time eating and less time lying. As there is a trade-off between lying time and eating time, lying time approached lower limits for cows with highest yields. It is suggested that time is viewed as an important but restricted resource that cows may be short of while trying to maintain high yields.

TidsskriftJournal of Dairy Science
Sider (fra-til)408-417
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 28 okt. 2015

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