Meta-analysis of rumination behavior and its relationship with milk and milk fat production, rumen pH, and total-tract digestibility in lactating dairy cows

Jocely G. Souza, Claudio V.D.M. Ribeiro, Kevin J. Harvatine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Time spent ruminating is affected by diet and affects the rumen environment. The objective of the current study was to conduct a meta-regression to characterize the variation in rumination time and its relationship with milk and milk fat yields and variables mechanistically associated with milk fat synthesis, including rumen pH and total-tract digestibility. The analysis included 130 journal articles published between 1986 and 2018 that reported 479 treatment means from lactating Holsteins cows during established lactation. Milk yield averaged 34.3 kg/d (range 14.2–52.1 kg/d), milk fat averaged 3.47% (range 2.20–4.60%), and rumen pH averaged 6.1 (range 5.3–7.0). Rumination observation systems were categorized into 6 groups, but there was little difference in average rumination time among systems. The total time spent ruminating averaged 444 min/d (range 151–638 d) and occurred in 13.8 bouts/d (range 7.8–17.4 bouts/d) that averaged 32.7 min (range 20.0–48.1 min). Bivariate regressions were modeled to include the random effect of study, and correlations were evaluated through the partial R2 that excluded variation accounted for by the random effect. Rumination time was quadratically increased with increasing milk fat yield (partial R2 = 0.27) and milk fat percent (partial R2 = 0.17). Rumination was also increased with increasing milk yield, dry matter intake, and rumen pH, and was quadratically related to dietary neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and total-tract NDF digestibility (partial R2 = 0.10–0.27). Similar relationships were observed for rumination per unit of dry matter and NDF intake. The best-fit multivariate model predicting total rumination time included milk yield, milk fat yield, and concentration and accounted for 37% of the variation. Total-tract digestibility was available for 217 treatment means; when included in the model, the partial R2 increased to 0.41. Last, principal component analysis was conducted to explore the relationship among variables. The first 2 principal components in the broad analyses explained 36.7% of the 39 variables evaluated, which included rumination bouts and time spent ruminating. In conclusion, rumination time was related to milk fat across a large number of studies, although it explained only a limited amount of the variation in milk fat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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