Validation of milk mid-infrared spectroscopy for predicting the metabolic status of lactating dairy cows in Australia
© 2021 American Dairy Science Association Increased concentrations of some serum biomarkers are known to be associated with impaired health of dairy cows. Therefore, being able to predict these biomarkers, especially in the early stage of lactation, would enable preventive management decision. Some health biomarkers may also be used as phenotypes for genetic improvement for improved animal health. In this study, we validated the accuracy and robustness of models for predicting serum concentrations of β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), fatty acids, and urea nitrogen, using milk mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy. The data included 3,262 blood samples of 3,027 lactating Holstein-Friesian cows from 19 dairy herds in Southeastern Australia, collected in the period from July 2017 to April 2020. The models were developed using partial least squares regression and were validated using 10-fold random cross-validation, herd-year by herd-year external validation, and year by year validation. The coefficients of determination (R2) for prediction of serum BHB, fatty acids, and urea obtained through random cross-validation were 0.60, 0.42, and 0.87, respectively. For the herd-year by herd-year external validation, the prediction accuracies held up comparatively well, with R2 values of 0.49, 0.33, and 0.67 for of serum BHB, fatty acids, and urea, respectively. When the models were developed using data from a single year to predict data collected in future years, the R2 remained comparable, however, the root mean squared errors increased substantially (4–10 times larger than compared with that of herd-year by herd-year external validation) which could be due to machine differences in spectral response, the change in spectral response of individual machines over time, or other differences associated with farm management between seasons. In conclusion, the mid-infrared equations for predicting serum BHB, fatty acids, and urea have been validated. The prediction equations could be used to help farmers detect cows with metabolic disorders in early lactation in addition to generating novel phenotypes for genetic improvement purposes.