Variation in milk proteins across a contemporary group of Holstein cattle

2016 Annual Report for ONE15-238

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,726.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Erika Huyck
TP Cattle Services, LLC

Variation in milk proteins across a contemporary group of Holstein cattle


The goal of our project is to explore the possibility of improving genetic selection of milk proteins in dairy cattle through the examination of the variation in individual milk proteins such as casein, alpha lactalbumin and beta lactoglobulin. It is our hope that our study will reveal significant variation and yield an improved ability to make genetic progress by allowing breeders to select for individual milk proteins instead of crude protein. The ability to generate lines of cattle that excel in one protein fraction over another would result in a new level of efficiency on the industrial side of dairy as one of the major challenges in different areas of dairy processing is dealing with protein byproducts. The key components of our study consisted of obtaining three consecutive milk samples at two week intervals from a large herd of dairy cattle to reduce environmental influence on the variation in the protein fractions. The sampling took place at Sunnyside Farms in Scipio Center, NY. Due to the rotary style parlor in place at this location we were able to obtain samples from ~1200 cows over the course of our sampling period. In addition, we collected samples from 30 cows at calving and followed them throughout their lactations (~6 months) to examine how much the milk protein fractions change as a cow progresses through her lactation. The chemical fractionation processing is 75% completed and preliminary data analysis has begun. The fresh cow portion of the experiment is completed and a draft of a scientific journal article has been written. We will finish the remaining samples by the end of January and complete our analysis shortly after. 

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Obtain samples – Completed. Our sample collections were accomplished and a sufficient number of cows were sampled.

2. Verify chemical fractionation procedures and modify as necessary – Completed.

3. Perform chemical fractionation on all samples obtained – In progress.

4. Determine variation in milk proteins – In progress. 

5. Share results with key dairy industry leaders to utilize data to make the dairy industry more efficient – Planning in progress.


This year we made much progress in processing the samples and collecting the chemical fractionation data. The process is labor intensive and time consuming but we are confident we will soon have the rest of the samples fractionated. Preliminary data analysis shows exciting differences between cows but we cannot draw final conclusions until all the samples have been processed. Once the data analysis is completed we will plan our producer and industry leader meetings. With the removal of rBST from most cooperatives this year, genetics will become even more important and the timing of our study even more relevant. 

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This summer Erika and an interested animal science student volunteer from Michigan State University completed the bulk of the chemical fractionations. At this time, Erika is finishing up this part of the experiment and collecting the rest of the data necessary for data analysis (ie milk weights). We have drafted scientific journal articles for the two portions of the study and are excited to report the results to producers. Tom will perform the data analysis and help plan the information sessions. 


Tom Smith
Partener, consultant
TP Cattle Services
3329 Roosevelt Hwy
Hamlin, NY 14644-585
Office Phone: 5854652218
Neil Rejman
SunnySide Dairy
Indian Field Road
Scipio Center, NY 13147
Office Phone: 3157296059