Temporary changes to milking frequency during early lactation can elicit lactation-long changes in milk production. This study tested whether altered milking frequency, immediately post-calving, would affect mammary gene expression during and/or following treatment. Multiparous, grazing dairy cows (n = 150) were allocated to one of five treatments post-calving: milking thrice-daily (3X) for three or six weeks, and twice-daily (2X) thereafter; milking once-daily (1X) for three or six weeks, and 2X thereafter; or milking 2X for the entire lactation. Mammary tissue was biopsied from 12 cows per treatment at three, six and nine weeks postcalving and expression of milk synthesis and apoptosis genes measured using quantitative PCR. The milk fat, lactose and protein genes were down-regulated (P <0.05) in cows milked 1X compared with cows milked 2X. At nine weeks post-calving, cows milked 1X for three weeks had reduced mRNA levels of milk synthesis genes compared with cows milked 1X for six weeks (P <0.05). The expression of apoptosis genes was up-regulated (P <0.05) in cows milked 1X relative to 2X, during and post-treatment. There were no gene expression changes during 3X milking compared with cows milked 2X. Changes in gene expression observed in cows temporarily milked 1X reflect physiological changes consistent with longer-term reductions in milksolids yield.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 71, Invercargill, 3-8, 2011
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