Predicting energy x protein interaction on milk yield and milk composition in dairy cows.
Feed management is one of the principal levers by which the production and composition of milk by dairy cows can be modulated in the short term. The response of milk yield and milk composition to variations in either energy or protein supplies is well known. However, in practice, dietary supplies of energy and protein vary simultaneously, and their interaction is still not well understood. The objective of this trial was to determine whether energy and protein interacted in their effects on milk production and milk composition and whether the response to changes in the diets depended on the parity and potential production of cows. From the results, a model was built to predict the response of milk yield and milk composition to simultaneous variations in energy and protein supplies relative to requirements of cows. Nine treatments, defined by their energy and protein supplies, were applied to 48 cows divided into 4 homogeneous groups (primiparous or multiparous x high or low milk potential) over three 4-wk periods. The control treatment was calculated to cover the predicted requirements of the group of cows in the middle of the trial and was applied to each cow. The other 8 treatments corresponded to fixed supplies of energy and protein, higher or lower than those of the control treatment. The results highlighted a significant energy x protein interaction not only on milk yield but also on protein content and yield. The response of milk yield to energy supply was zero with a negative protein balance and increased with protein supply equal to or higher than requirements. The response of milk yield to changes in the diet was greater for cows with high production potential than for those with low production potential, and the response of milk protein content was higher for primiparous cows than for multiparous cows. The model for the response of milk yield, protein yield, and protein content obtained in this trial made it possible to predict more accurately the variations in production and composition of milk relative to the potential of the cow because of changes in diet composition. In addition, the interaction obtained was in line with a response corresponding to the more limiting of 2 factors: energy or protein.