Annual rhythms of milk synthesis in dairy herds in 4 regions of the United States and their relationships to environmental indicators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The annual rhythms of milk and milk component yields are not well described and are important to dairy management. Recent analysis of federal milk marketing orders in the United States observed that the amplitude and time at peak (acrophase) of the rhythms of milk fat and protein concentration differ among regions, but the rhythms of milk and milk component yields are not well described. Our objective was to determine the annual rhythms of milk and milk component production from 4 US regions at the herd level and examine potential environmental factors entraining these rhythms. Monthly Dairy Herd Improvement Association records of all available herds in Pennsylvania (PA), Minnesota (MN), Texas (TX), and Florida (FL) from the years 2003 to 2016 were obtained from Dairy Records Managements Systems. Milk yield, fat and protein yield, and fat and protein concentration were fit to the linear form of the cosine function with a 12-mo period using a linear mixed effects model. Additionally, the fit of models containing either the cosine function or environmental temperature were compared using an F-test. Milk yield and fat and protein yields and concentrations fit a cosine function in all 4 states, indicating an annual rhythm. The amplitude (peak to mean) of the rhythm of milk yield varied by state and was lower in PA (1.2 kg) and MN (1.2 kg) compared with TX (3.1 kg) and FL (3.3 kg). Fat and protein yields similarly showed greater amplitudes in the southern versus northern states. The amplitudes of the rhythms of fat and protein concentration were opposite by region, with greater amplitudes occurring in MN and PA than in TX and FL. The acrophases of milk yield and milk fat and protein yields and concentrations also varied by state, but all peaked between October and March. An annual rhythm fit the data better than changes in environmental temperature for all responses in all states, except for fat and protein concentrations in FL, which exhibited lower amplitude seasonal rhythms. The yearly pattern of milk yield closely followed the fixed yearly pattern of the day to day changes in day length, whereas the rhythms of milk fat and protein concentrations followed the yearly pattern of absolute day length. Results suggest that the region of the United States in which a herd is located affects their annual rhythms of production, with a greater yearly variation in milk, fat, and protein yields occurring in the southern United States. The consistency of annual rhythms across years and herds allowed development of regression equations to adjust expectations across the year to account for the annual rhythm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3696-3707
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

Cite this