Six lactating Friesian cows (three high and three low breeding index cows) were subjected to a total of 28 complete energy and nitrogen balances during early and late lactation. In addition, 12 non-lactating Friesian cows (six high and six low breeding index cows) were offered individually pasture indoors for 62 days, beginning at approx. 180 days of pregnancy. Cows within each genotype were randomly allocated to feeding levels which were nominally equivalent to their requirements for maintenance or twice maintenance. Eight of the 12 cows (four high and four low breeding index) were each subjected to two energy balance periods at approx. 210 (period 1) and 230 (period 2) days of pregnancy.
When offered pasture ad libitum during lactation, cows with high breeding indexes consumed significantly more gross energy per unit of metabolic live weight (P < 0·05) than did cows with low breeding indexes, but the two genotypes did not differ in their ability to metabolize the gross energy of the food, or in the individual losses of energy in faeces, urine or methane.
There were no significant differences between genotypes in their heat production at a common energy intake except during restricted feeding in early lactation when high breeding index cows produced less heat than did low breeding index cows (P < 0·05). During lactation high breeding index cows retained a higher proportion of their total energy retention (milk + body tissue energy) as milk in late lactation (P < 0·01) but not in early lactation.
For non-lactating cows, both genotypes required similar amounts of metabolizable energy to maintain zero maternal body energy retention, 0·79 and 0·80 MJ/M0·75 for periods 1 and 2 respectively. The efficiency with which metabolizable energy was converted to net energy (kg) was similar for both genotypes at both stages of pregnancy, the mean value being 0·52. The metabolizable energy required to maintain body condition was estimated to be 0·78 and 0·71 MJ/M0·75 for high and low breeding index cows respectively. The metabolizable energy required in excess of maintenance to promote a gain of one unit of body condition was estimated to be 2290 MJ. This is equivalent to 27 MJ energy retained per kg live-weight gain.
For lactating and non-lactating cows the differences between genotypes in their utilization of nitrogen were small and inconsistent.