Prediction of body lipid change in pregnancy and lactation

N. C. Friggens*, K. L. Ingvartsen, G. C. Emmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


A simple method to predict the genetically driven pattern of body lipid change through pregnancy and lactation in dairy cattle is proposed. The rationale and evidence for genetically driven body lipid change have their basis in evolutionary considerations and in the homeorhetic changes in lipid metabolism through the reproductive cycle. The inputs required to predict body lipid change are body lipid mass at calving (kg) and the date of conception (days in milk). Body lipid mass can be derived from body condition score and live weight. A key assumption is that there is a linear rate of change of the rate of body lipid change (dL/dt) between calving and a genetically determined time in lactation (T′) at which a particular level of body lipid (L′) is sought. A second assumption is that there is a linear rate of change of the rate of body lipid change (dL/dt) between T′ and the next calving. The resulting model was evaluated using 2 sets of data. The first was from Holstein cows with 3 different levels of body fatness at calving. The second was from Jersey cows in first, second, and third parity. The model was found to reproduce the observed patterns of change in body lipid reserves through lactation in both data sets. The average error of prediction was low, less than the variation normally associated with the recording of condition score, and was similar for the 2 data sets. When the model was applied using the initially suggested parameter values derived from the literature the average error of prediction was 0.185 units of condition score (± 0.086 SD). After minor adjustments to the parameter values, the average error of prediction was 0.118 units of condition score (± 0.070 SD). The assumptions on which the model is based were sufficient to predict the changes in body lipid of both Holstein and Jersey cows under different nutritional conditions and parities. Thus, the model presented here shows that it is possible to predict genetically driven curves of body lipid change through lactation in a simple way that requires few parameters and inputs that can be derived in practice. It is expected that prediction of the cow's energy requirements can be substantially improved, particularly in early lactation, by incorporating a genetically driven body energy mobilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)988-1000
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - Apr 2004


  • Adipose
  • Body condition score
  • Genotype
  • Lactation


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