Milk fat production is highly influenced by nutrition and rumen fermentation. Rumination is an essential part of the ruminant digestive process and can serve as an indicator of rumen fermentation. The objective of this research was to quantify variation in rumination time between and within dairy herds and test for relationships between rumination time and milk fat production and fatty acid (FA) profile as a proxy of rumen fermentation. Our hypothesis was that rumination may indicate disruptions to rumen fermentation and that cows that spent less time ruminating would have lower milk fat due to these rumen disruptions. Data were collected from 1,733 Holstein cows on 5 commercial dairy farms (4 in Pennsylvania and 1 in New York) of 200 to 700 head using 1 of 2 commercially-available rumination sensing systems, CowManager SensOor ear tags (Agis Automatisering BV) or SCR model HR-LDn neck collars (SCR Engineers). Rumination data were collected for 7 consecutive days leading up to a DHIA test, summed within day, then averaged to obtain mean daily minutes of rumination time. Milk samples from the DHIA test were analyzed for fat content by mid-infrared spectroscopy and for milk FA profile by gas chromatography. Rumination data were analyzed using multiple linear regression models. Rumination time was related to concentration of specific odd- and branched-chain and trans FA in milk but was not directly related to milk fat concentration. Rumination time also did not contribute to models predicting milk fat concentration after accounting for other cow-level variables. There was a linear relationship between trans-10 C18:1 and rumination time that was positive after accounting for the effect of farm (partial R2 of 2.97% across all data, 4.24% in SCR data, and 2.22% in CowManager data). Although rumination time was not related directly to milk fat, it was associated with differences in trans and odd- and branched-chain FA that have been demonstrated to change during subacute ruminal acidosis or biohydrogenation-induced milk fat depression, which may affect milk fat and other production variables. These associations suggest that further investigation into using rumination data from commercial systems to predict or identify the presence of these conditions is warranted.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology