Seasonal and lactational influences on bovine milk composition in New Zealand

J Dairy Res. 1998 Aug;65(3):401-11. doi: 10.1017/s0022029998002970.


This study was designed to evaluate the respective influences of stage of lactation (SOL) and time of year on the seasonal variation in milk composition for pasture-fed dairy cows in New Zealand. Four herds of approximately 20 Friesian cows were used, one herd calving in a 6 week period beginning in each of January, April, July and October. Cows grazed rye-grass-white clover pasture only, except during June when all cows received supplementary pasture silage. Milk samples were collected from each cow in milk on four occasions during the year (September, December, March and June), to give a total of three samples per cow (early, mid and late lactation; about 30, 120 and 210 d respectively after calving). Samples were analysed for a detailed range of components. Concentrations of many milk components (e.g. total protein, fat, casein and whey protein) increased as lactation progressed; the extent of these increases depended on the time of year. These results indicated that spreading calving throughout the year would lessen seasonal variations in the gross composition of mill supplied to factories, leading to a more even distribution of product yield across the year. Despite this, variations in some important manufacturing properties were affected by time of year but not by SOL. Ratios of protein: fat and casein: whey protein were not significantly affected by SOL, but were affected by time of year. The solid fat content of milk was also affected by time of year. Seasonal variations in the manufacturing properties of milk may be reduced but not eliminated by changing the time of calving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Caseins / analysis
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Female
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk Proteins / analysis
  • New Zealand
  • Poaceae
  • Seasons*
  • Whey Proteins


  • Caseins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Whey Proteins