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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Understanding Genetic and Physiological Factors Affecting Nutrient Use Efficiency of Dairy Cattle

Location: Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory

Project Number: 1245-31320-077-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 26, 2012
End Date: Jul 25, 2017

Objective:
The overall goal of this research is to identify and elucidate genetic and physiological factors that influence the efficiency of nutrient use in dairy cattle in order to reduce feed costs and nutrient losses associated with milk production. These goals will be attained through a multidisciplinary approach that employs genomics, nutrition, physiology, and molecular and cell biology. Objective 1. Evaluate residual feed intake (RFI), or other measures of nutrient use efficiency, as a measurement and selectable trait for feed efficiency in dairy heifers and lactating dairy cattle and identify and characterize genetic and physiological factors contributing to its variation. Determine the relationship between measures of nutrient use efficiency in dairy heifers and subsequent nutrient use efficiency as lactating cows; including the evaluation of selection for improved nutrient use efficiency during heifer development on reproduction, lactation performance, stayability, health and milk traits in the lactating cow for potential development of estimated breeding values. Sub-objective 1.A. Expand our existing dairy efficiency database for characterizing RFI and factors contributing to its variation. Sub-objective 1.B. Characterize the relationship between RFI during growth in dairy heifers and subsequent RFI during lactation. Sub-objective 1.C. Examine genetic variation in high- and low-RFI dairy cattle to identify putative physiological pathways contributing to its variation among cows. Objective 2. Determine the relationships between ruminal microbial communities, animal genotype, and/or methane production with feed/nutrient use efficiency and/or lactation performance in response to varying nutritional regimens in beef or dairy cattle. Objective 3. Estimate intestinal growth response to post-ruminal delivery of nutrients; and effects of diet composition, intake level, passage rate, and related factors in individual dairy cows to determine regulation and impacts on overall animal energetic efficiency. Sub-objective 3.A. Evaluate the intestinal and ruminal epithelial tissue responses to short-term (14-d) luminal infusions of partially hydrolyzed starch introduced ruminally or post ruminally. Sub-objective 3.B. Assess differences in the relative contribution of visceral organs to total body composition in cows exhibiting divergent efficiencies for milk production as determined by RFI.

Approach:
To identify and characterize factors affecting nutrient use efficiency in dairy cattle, an existing dairy efficiency database will be expanded for characterizing RFI and factors contributing to its variation. In addition, the relationship between RFI during growth in dairy heifers and subsequent RFI during lactation will be characterized, and genetic variation including genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms and gene copy number variations in high- and low-RFI dairy cattle will be examined. The contributing role of visceral organs and total body composition to differences among cows in efficiency (RFI) for milk production also will be examined in a slaughter study. Changes in rumen microbial populations in response to feed additives designed to alter volatile fatty acid production in the rumen will be characterized using metagenomics approaches, and impacts on nutrient use efficiency will be examined. Using transcriptomics, the impact of site of nutrient delivery on intestinal and ruminal epithelial tissue growth and metabolism will be evaluated, as well as histone modification and gene expression in rumen epithelium of dry dairy cows in response to elevated rumen butyrate concentrations. Finally, the effectiveness of a therapteutic peptide to improve nutrient absorption in the gut of pre-weaned dairy calves will be assessed.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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