Nutritional and genetic characterization of dairy cows managed on pasture-based systems, identifying key aspects to improve their performance

dc.contributor.authorMorales Ramirez, Alvaro Gonzaloen
dc.contributor.committeechairHanigan, Mark Danielen
dc.contributor.committeechairCockrum, Rebecca R.en
dc.contributor.committeememberFerreira, Gonzaloen
dc.contributor.committeememberMolina De Almeida Teixeira, Izabelle Auxiliadoraen
dc.contributor.departmentDairy Scienceen
dc.description.abstractUnderstanding the particularities of pasture inclusion on cows' diets and their subsequent impact on the digestive processes, together with possible differences in the nutrient utilization of cows managed under grazing conditions, are challenges that must be elucidated in order to design strategies to improve the cows' productive performance. The objectives of this dissertation were: 1) to review the existing literature on ration formulation for dairy cows in pasture-based systems, identifying limitations and potential improvement areas, 2) to evaluate the adequacy of the Molly model predictions of ruminal fermentation, nutrient digestion, and performance from cows consuming fresh ryegrass-based diets, identifying mechanisms that could be used to direct further model improvements, 3) to evaluate the model predictions of milk, fat and protein production using data from Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cows from Chile managed under pasture-based systems, identifying mechanisms that could be used to direct further model improvements, 4) to identify the different dairy breeds and their crosses that are used in the Chilean dairy population, determining if there are specific breed and heterosis effects on productive and some functional traits, and 5) to characterize the ruminal degradation dynamics of crude protein (CP) and individual amino acids (AA) from ryegrass (Lolium perenne) at vegetative stage, generating information to improve the ration formulation in dairy cows in pasture-based systems. From the literature revision in objective 1, different factors that could help to create a more specific classification of dairy pasture-based systems were identified. Maximizing grass inclusion seems to leads to an oversimplification of diets, potentially limiting the performance of medium and high producing cows. Despite the low N use efficiencies reached in pasture-based systems, there is a lack of information in studies that delve into the ruminal degradation of CP and AA, as well as their intestinal absorption, and subsequent post-absorptive utilization. Advances in the understanding of these areas could help to create strategies to face this problem. There is evidence suggesting that cows can perform different under different productive systems, but various breeds, strains, and crossbreds are used in pasture-based systems, being needed first a better characterization of them. To achieve the second objective, a total of 25 studies (n = 115 treatments) including dairy cows consuming ryegrass predominant diets, published from 1970 through 2020, were collected from the literature and used to assess the model accuracy and precision based on root mean squared errors and concordance correlation coefficients (CCC). Predictions of protein and fiber digestion and fiber and organic matter fecal excretion were improved after model reparameterization, while body weight and body condition score predictions were improved after model modifications and reparameterization. Although digestion of nutrient was better represented by the new set of parameters derived, the accuracies of milk, protein, and fat production remained low (CCC of 0.13, 0.12, and 018, respectively), with moderate slope bias. To achieve the third objective, a dataset including 180 group cows' diets (153 from Holstein Friesian and 27 from Jersey cows) from 18 commercial dairy farms with different inclusion of ryegrass was compiled. Chemical composition of feeds ingredients, group intakes and animal performance records, were provided by the Chilean cooperative Colun. Separately model mammary reparameterization of Holstein Friesian and Jersey cows' data, improved both milk production (CCC values of 0.69 and 0.90, respectively) and milk solids predictions (CCC values of 0.68 and 0.92 for milk protein and 0.65 and 0.80 for milk fat, for Holstein Friesian and Jersey cows, respectively). This indicates that there seems to be some differences in mammary cells and cells activity between breeds evaluated, translated into different lactation curves and milk solids synthesis patters. To achieve the fourth objective, a dataset considering 1,429,132 records from 586,624 cows that calved between 1998 and 2018 was compiled. Pedigree information, milk, milk protein, and milk fat, as well as somatic cell score and calving interval records were provided by the Chilean cooperative COOPRINSEM. The proportion of each breed according to the different country origin (strain) was calculated for all the animals, being identified eight genetic strains with enough information to perform separated genetic evaluations: Chilean Friesian, French Holstein-Friesian, US-Holstein, US-Jersey, French Montbeliarde, New Zealander Holstein-Friesian, Swedish Red and White, and British Friesian. Four different genetic models, increasing in complexity (considering breed or strain classification, crossbreeding proportion, and heterosis effects) were tested. Specific effects for some genetic strains, as well as heterosis effects between some strains with Chilean Friesian were identified, so these effects should be considered when performing genetic evaluations in the Chilean dairy population. Also, they can be used to direct future selection programs. To achieve the last objective, an in situ study using three cannulated cows was carried out at the Agricultural Research Station of the Austral University of Chile (Valdivia, Chile). Samples from a perennial ryegrass pasture were collected during winter, spring and summer at vegetative stage. Duplicate bags were ruminally incubated for 4, 8, 12, 24, and 96 h. CP and AA profile of original samples and from incubation residues were determined. Ryegrass samples presented a high crude protein content (averaging 25.8%), however, the RUP content was ~15 to 20% of CP. Significant differences were observed for ryegrass CP and individual AA ruminal degradation kinetics, this seems to be associated to some specific AA.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralThe used of pasture-based systems in dairy production are an important alternative in countries were local environmental and climatological conditions, as well as soil properties are suitable for the growth of high-quality grasslands. The main advantages attributed to the use of pasture-based system are the reduction in the production costs, and potentially improving the nutrition quality of dairy products as well as the cows' welfare. However, they have some important limitations as the natural variation in the quantity and quality of available herbage. Also, there is a lack of information on fundamental nutrition of pasture nutrients digestion and utilization by the cows manage and selected under these environmental conditions. The first two objectives of this dissertation consisted in using the Molly nutritional model, which represents the biology of the whole cow, in order to identify key aspects to better understand the cows manage under pasture-based systems and develop strategies to precise their nutrition. Particularly, topics such as prediction of ruminal fermentation and digestive processes, mobilization of body reserves, mammary glands metabolism, and potential differences between Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cows were analyzed. Overall, work on these objectives resulted in improvements to the Molly model for making predictions of diets that include grass. The diversity of breeds and their country of origin, as well as different crosses in the Chilean dairy population were explored. A more comprehensive genetic model was proposed in this work to precise the calculation of breeding values in the country. Furthermore, our findings could be used as inputs to direct future selection programs. The last objective explored the ruminal degradation of crude protein and each individual amino acid in ryegrass. We demonstrate that indeed there are differences in the degradation parameters for some amino acids. Due to the high degradability of fresh ryegrass, there could be some potential limitations in the supply of some essential amino acids, especially in high producing cows consuming predominant ryegrass diets.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectDairy cowen
dc.subjectpasture-base systemen
dc.subjectnutrition modelsen
dc.subjectdairy breeden
dc.titleNutritional and genetic characterization of dairy cows managed on pasture-based systems, identifying key aspects to improve their performanceen
dc.typeDissertationen Sciences, Dairyen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Philosophyen


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