Modelling beef cows’ individual response to short nutrient restriction in different lactation stages
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Short-term nutrient restrictions can occur naturally in extensive beef cattle production systems due to low feed quality or availability. The aims of the study were to (1) model the curves of milk yield, plasma non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) and β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) contents of beef cows in response to short nutritional challenges throughout lactation; (2) identify clusters of cows with different response profiles; (3) quantify differences in cows’ response between the clusters and lactation stages. Data of BW, body condition score (BCS), milk yield, NEFA, and BHB plasma concentration from 31 adult beef cows (626 ± 48 kg at calving) were used to study the effect of 4-day feed restriction repeated over months 2, 3 and 4 of lactation. On each month, all cows received a single diet calculated to meet the requirements of the average cow: 100 % requirements for 4 days (d-4 to d-1, basal period), 55 % requirements on the next 4 days (d0 to d3, restriction period) and 100 % requirements for 4 days (d4 to d7, refeeding period). Natural cubic splines were used to model the response of milk yield, NEFA and BHB to restriction and refeeding in the 3 months. The new response variables [baseline value, peak value, days to peak and to regain baseline, and areas under the curve (AUC) during restriction and refeeding] were used to cluster cows according to their metabolic response (MR) into two groups: Low MR and High MR. The month of lactation affected all the traits, and basal values decreased as lactation advanced. Cows from both clusters had similar BW and BCS values, but those in the High MR cluster had higher basal milk yield, NEFA and BHB contents, and responded more intensely to restriction, with more marked peaks and AUCs. Reaction times were similar, and baseline values recovered during refeeding in both clusters. Our results suggest that the response was driven by cows’ milk potential rather than size or body reserves, and despite high-responding cattle's higher milk yield, they were able to activate metabolic pathways to respond to and recover from the challenge.
Is part ofAnimal, 2022, vol. 16, núm. 9, p. 1-10
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