Study of the Lactation Curve in Dairy Cattle on Farms in Central Mexico

D. Val-Arreola, E. Kebreab, J. Dijkstra, J. France

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate knowledge of lactation curves has an important relevance to management and research of dairy production systems. A number of equations have been proposed to describe the lactation curve, the most widely applied being the gamma equation. The objective of this work was to compare and evaluate candidate functions for their predictive ability in describing lactation curves from central Mexican dairy cows reared under 2 contrasting management systems. Five equations were considered: Gaines (exponential decay), Wood (gamma equation), Rook (Michaelis-Menten xexponential), and 2 more mechanistic ones (Dijkstra and Pollott). A database consisting of 701 and 1283 records of cows in small-scale and intensive systems, respectively, was used in the analysis. Before analysis, the database was divided into 6 groups representing first, second, and third and higher parity cows in both systems. In all cases except second and above parity cows in small-scale systems, all models improved on the Gaines equation. The Wood equation explained much of the variation, but its parameters do not have direct biological interpretation. Although the Rook equation fitted the data well, some of the parameter estimates were not significant. The Dijkstra equation consistently gave better predictions, and its parameters were usually statistically significant and lend themselves to physiological interpretation. As such, the differences between systems and parity could be explained due to variations in theoretical initial milk production at parturition, specific rates of secretory cell proliferation and death, and rate of decay, all of which are parameters in the model. The Pollott equation, although containing the most biology, was found to be over-parameterized and resulted in nonsignificant parameter estimates. For central Mexican dairy cows, the Dijkstra equation was the best option to use in describing the lactation curve.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3789-3799
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • milk-yield
  • model
  • describe
  • cows


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