Associations between individual cow factors and milk-protein production.
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Associations between stage of lactation, cow characteristics, and protein production were evaluated using data from a 2-year period on 75 Ontario, 5 Alberta, and 3 Nova Scotia dairy farms. Individual-cow protein production was defined by 305-day protein yield and by the estimated breeding value for protein yield. Lactation curves for average daily protein yield were computed by parity, breed, and season of calving. Mean protein yield was highest in early lactation. However, there was no pronounced peak in daily protein yield. Parity was positively associated with 305-day protein yield and negatively associated with the estimated breeding values for protein yield. First-calf heifers had lower protein yields in early lactation and a slower rate of decline in protein yield in late lactation, as compared to later parity cows. Holstein cows had higher unadjusted protein yields and lower protein yields after adjusting for milk yield than other breeds. Holstein cows had significantly higher protein yields early in lactation compared to other breeds, but the rate of decline in protein production in late lactation was also greater. Season was associated with 305-day protein yield; the highest protein yields occurred in cows calving in the fall and winter months, but these cows had the greatest rate of decline in protein production in late lactation.