Weather influences feed intake and feed efficiency in a temperate climate

DL Hill, E Wall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    11 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    A key goal for livestock science is to ensure that food production meets the needs of an increasing global population. Climate change may heighten this challenge through increases in mean temperatures and in the intensity, duration, and spatial distribution of extreme weather events, such as heat waves. Under high ambient temperatures, livestock are expected to decrease dry matter intake (DMI) to reduce their metabolic heat production. High yielding dairy cows require high DMI to support their levels of milk production, but this may increase susceptibility to heat stress. Here, we tested how feed intake and the rate of converting dry matter to milk (feed efficiency, FE) vary in response to natural fluctuations in weather conditions in a housed experimental herd of lactating Holstein Friesians in the United Kingdom. Cows belonged to 2 lines: those selected for high genetic merit for milk traits (select) and those at the UK average (control). We predicted that (1) feed intake and FE would vary with an index of temperature and humidity (THI), wind speed, and the number of hours of sunshine, and that (2) the effects of (1) would depend on the cows' genetic merit. Animals received a mixed ration, available ad libitum, from automatic feed measurement gates. Using >73,000 daily feed intake and FE records from 328 cows over 8 yr, we found that select cows produced more fat- and protein-corrected milk, and had higher DMI and FE than controls. Cows of both lines decreased DMI and fat- and protein-corrected milk but, importantly, increased FE as THI increased. This suggests that improvements in the efficiency of converting feed to milk may partially offset the costs of reduced milk yield owing to a warmer climate, at least under conditions of mild heat stress. The rate of increase in FE with THI was steeper in select cows than in controls, which raises the possibility that select cows use more effective coping tactics. This is, to our knowledge, the first longitudinal study on the effects of weather on FE. Understanding how weather influences feed intake and efficiency can help us to develop management and selection practices that optimize productivity under unfavourable weather conditions. This will be an important aspect of climate resilience in future.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2240-2257
    JournalJournal of Dairy Science
    Volume100
    Issue number3
    Early online date18 Jan 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2017

    Fingerprint

    temperate zones
    feed conversion
    weather
    feed intake
    cows
    dry matter intake
    humidity
    genetic merit
    dairy protein
    milk
    heat stress
    temperature
    livestock
    climate
    lipids
    heat production
    longitudinal studies
    food production
    wind speed
    United Kingdom

    Keywords

    • Comprehensive Climate Index
    • Crude protein intake
    • Feed conversion ratio
    • Metabolizable energy intake

    Cite this

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    abstract = "A key goal for livestock science is to ensure that food production meets the needs of an increasing global population. Climate change may heighten this challenge through increases in mean temperatures and in the intensity, duration, and spatial distribution of extreme weather events, such as heat waves. Under high ambient temperatures, livestock are expected to decrease dry matter intake (DMI) to reduce their metabolic heat production. High yielding dairy cows require high DMI to support their levels of milk production, but this may increase susceptibility to heat stress. Here, we tested how feed intake and the rate of converting dry matter to milk (feed efficiency, FE) vary in response to natural fluctuations in weather conditions in a housed experimental herd of lactating Holstein Friesians in the United Kingdom. Cows belonged to 2 lines: those selected for high genetic merit for milk traits (select) and those at the UK average (control). We predicted that (1) feed intake and FE would vary with an index of temperature and humidity (THI), wind speed, and the number of hours of sunshine, and that (2) the effects of (1) would depend on the cows' genetic merit. Animals received a mixed ration, available ad libitum, from automatic feed measurement gates. Using >73,000 daily feed intake and FE records from 328 cows over 8 yr, we found that select cows produced more fat- and protein-corrected milk, and had higher DMI and FE than controls. Cows of both lines decreased DMI and fat- and protein-corrected milk but, importantly, increased FE as THI increased. This suggests that improvements in the efficiency of converting feed to milk may partially offset the costs of reduced milk yield owing to a warmer climate, at least under conditions of mild heat stress. The rate of increase in FE with THI was steeper in select cows than in controls, which raises the possibility that select cows use more effective coping tactics. This is, to our knowledge, the first longitudinal study on the effects of weather on FE. Understanding how weather influences feed intake and efficiency can help us to develop management and selection practices that optimize productivity under unfavourable weather conditions. This will be an important aspect of climate resilience in future.",
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    Weather influences feed intake and feed efficiency in a temperate climate. / Hill, DL; Wall, E.

    In: Journal of Dairy Science, Vol. 100, No. 3, 03.2017, p. 2240-2257.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    AU - Wall, E

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    KW - Metabolizable energy intake

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