Differential rumination, intake and enteric methane production of dairy cows in a pasture-based automatic milking system

Lucinda Watt, C.E.F. Clark, Gaye Krebs, Christopher Petzel, Sharon Nielsen, S.A. Utsumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Proper performance monitoring of cows on pasture-based diets is crucial to inform nutritional recommendations that minimize undesirable effects of high ruminant CH4 emissions into the environment. The prediction of linkages between rumination patterns, methane emissions, and correlated production traits of cows in a pasture-based automatic milking system was tested. A previous 10-d baseline measurement of rumination activity by acoustic methodology of 156 Holstein-Friesian cows was used for frequency analysis of rumination time and identification of 2 treatment groups (n = 37 cows/group) represented by cows with consistently high (HR; 75th rumination percentile = 617.55 ± 81.37 min/d) or low (LR; 25th rumination percentile = 356.65 ± 72.67 min/d) rumination. The HR and LR cows were paired by nearest parity, days in milk, body weight (BW), and previous 10-d milk production, and within pairs randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental groups managed on a voluntary milking system with diets consisting of at least 75% pasture, plus concentrates. Animal traits, including rumination time, mass flux of CH4 (QCH4) and carbon dioxide (QCO2), milk production, and estimated dry matter intake according to individual QCO2 fluxes over a 22-d period were analyzed with repeated measure mixed models for a completely randomized design, structural equation modeling, and nonlinear regression. High rumination and methane was seen in older and heavier cows that had greater estimated dry matter intake and milk production. A consistent difference in rumination time and QCH4 across days was detected between HR and LR, even after adjustment for metabolic BW. Estimated dry matter intake had direct positive effects on rumination and QCH4, but no independent direct effect of rumination on QCH4 was detected. The LR cows produced more QCH4/milk, associated with lower milk, BW, concentrate intake, and greater activity at pasture. A typical dilution of maintenance effect on QCH4/milk was detected as a consequence of increasing milk yield and similar significant reduction of QCO2/milk. The results raise challenging questions regarding the rumination patterning of grazing dairy cows and alternatives to reduce ruminant methane emissions in grazing dairy cows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7248-7263
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


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