Effects of Genotype by Environment Interactions on Milk Yield, Energy Balance, and Protein Balance

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Increases in genetic merit for milk yield are associated with increases in mobilization of body reserves. This study assessed the effects of genotype by environment (GxE) interactions on milk yield and energy and protein balances. Heifers (n = 100) with high or low genetic merit for milk yield were milked 2 or 3 times a day and received rations of low or high caloric density. The management factors were selected to induce substantial differences in milk production levels and model different management strategies. The 2 x 2 x 2 factorial arrangement enables the assessment of the effects of genotype, environment, and GxE interactions. Mean daily energy-corrected milk production in the first 100 d in milk varied between 21.8 and 35.2 kg among the groups. The experimental factors affected milk production in the presumed direction. Ration was the most determinant factor on milk production. Effects of milking frequency and genetic merit were significant only in the groups that were fed rations with high caloric density. Signs for severe negative energy balances, protein balances, and low body condition scores, all of which may be indicative of health risks, were not concentrated in the highest producing cows. Feed caloric density and milking frequency had stronger effects on energy balances and protein balances, with unfavorable effects of low caloric density feed and an extra milking. This emphasizes the possible effect of mismanagement on animal health risks. High genetic merit cows had significantly lower postpartum body condition scores. Genotype x environment interactions existed, but more information is needed to determine if cows of different genetic merit for milk yield are differently at risk for disease under specific conditions. High milk production levels per se will increase allostatic load, but need not compromise the health status of relatively young cows. Ongoing one-sided selection for high yield may be combined with good animal health, but because high genetic merit for milk yield seems intrinsically connected to the allocation of resources from maintenance toward milk, this puts increasing demands on farmers¿ time and management skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-228
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • dairy-cows
  • genetic-parameters
  • body fatness
  • feed-intake
  • selection
  • health
  • efficiency
  • lactation
  • system
  • cattle


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