The aim of this study was to estimate phenotypic and genetic correlations between methane production (Mp) and milk fatty acid contents of first-parity Walloon Holstein cows throughout lactation. Calibration equations predicting daily Mp (g/d) and milk fatty acid contents (g/100 dL of milk) were applied on milk mid-infrared spectra related to Walloon milk recording. A total of 241,236 predictions of Mp and milk fatty acids were used. These data were collected between 5 and 305 d in milk in 33,555 first-parity Holstein cows from 626 herds. Pedigree data included 109,975 animals. Bivariate (i.e., Mp and a fatty acid trait) random regression test-day models were developed to estimate phenotypic and genetic parameters of Mp and milk fatty acids. Individual short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and groups of saturated fatty acids, SCFA, and medium-chain fatty acids showed positive phenotypic and genetic correlations with Mp (from 0.10 to 0.16 and from 0.23 to 0.30 for phenotypic and genetic correlations, respectively), whereas individual long-chain fatty acids (LCFA), and groups of LCFA, monounsaturated fatty acids, and unsaturated fatty acids showed null to positive phenotypic and genetic correlations with Mp (from -0.03 to 0.13 and from -0.02 to 0.32 for phenotypic and genetic correlations, respectively). However, these correlations changed throughout lactation. First, de novo individual and group fatty acids (i.e., C4:0, C6:0, C8:0, C10:0, C12:0, C14:0, SCFA group) showed low phenotypic or genetic correlations (or both) in early lactation and higher at the end of lactation. In contrast, phenotypic and genetic correlations between Mp and C16:0, which could be de novo synthetized or derived from blood lipids, were more stable during lactation. This fatty acid is the most abundant fatty acid of the saturated fatty acid and medium-chain fatty acid groups of which correlations with Mp showed the same pattern across lactation. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between Mp and C17:0 and C18:0 were low in early lactation and increased afterward. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between Mp and C18:1 cis-9 originating from the blood lipids were negative in early lactation and increased afterward to become null from 18 wk until the end of lactation. Correlations between Mp and groups of LCFA, monounsaturated fatty acids, and unsaturated fatty acids showed a similar or intermediate pattern across lactation compared with fatty acids that compose them. Finally, these results indicate that correlations between Mp and milk fatty acids vary following lactation stage of the cow, a fact still often ignored when trying to predict Mp from milk fatty acid profile.
Vanrobays, M.L. , Bastin, C. , Vandenplas, J. , Hammami, H. , Soyeurt, H. , Vanlierde, A. , Dehareng, F. , Froidmont, E. & Gengler, N.