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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EFFICIENCY OF NUTRIENT USE IN CATTLE:IDENTIFICATION OF CRITICAL PHYSIOLOGIC AND GENOMIC REGULATORY PATHWAYS Title: Use of residual feed intake in Holsteins during early lactation shows potential to improve feed efficiency through genetic selection

Authors
item Connor, Erin
item Hutchison, Jana
item Norman, H
item Olson, Katie -
item Van Tassell, Curtis
item Leith, Jonathan
item Baldwin, Ransom

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 12, 2013
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/57165
Citation: Connor, E.E., Hutchison, J.L., Norman, H.D., Olson, K.M., Van Tassell, C.P., Leith, J.M., Baldwin, R.L. 2013. Use of residual feed intake in Holsteins during early lactation shows potential to improve feed efficiency through genetic selection. Journal of Animal Science. 91:3978-3988.

Interpretive Summary: Rising feed costs, as well as public concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses to the environment associated with agricultural animal production, have renewed interest in identifying the most efficient dairy cattle in feed conversion to milk output. Use of a measure of feed efficiency in beef cattle, called residual feed intake or RFI, to identify and select the most efficient animals at conversion of feed into gain has shown great promise in reducing feed costs by 10 to 12%, greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 30%, and nutrient losses in manure by 15 to 17%. In the present work, RFI was estimated for dairy cattle and its heritability shown to be moderate. In addition, results indicated that high efficiency was associated with less time feeding per day and slower feeding rate, which may contribute to differences in RFI among cows. The heritability and repeatability of RFI in lactating dairy cattle suggest an opportunity to improve feed efficiency through genetic selection, which could reduce feed costs, manure output, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairy production.

Technical Abstract: Improved feed efficiency is a primary goal in dairy production to reduce feed costs and negative impacts of production on the environment. Estimates for efficiency of feed conversion to milk production based on residual feed intake (RFI) in dairy cattle are limited, primarily due to a lack of individual feed intake measurements for lactating cows. Feed intake was measured in Holstein cows during the first 90 d of lactation to estimate the heritability and repeatability of RFI, minimum test duration for evaluating RFI in early lactation, and its association with other production traits. Data were obtained from 453 lactations (214 heifers and 239 multiparous cows) from 292 individual cows from September 2007 to December 2011. Cows were housed in a free-stall barn and monitored for individual daily feed consumption using the GrowSafe 4000 System (GrowSafe Systems, Ltd., Airdrie, AB, Canada). Animals were fed a total mixed ration 3 times daily, milked twice daily, and weighed every 10 to 14 d. Milk yield was measured at each milking. Feed DM percentage was measured daily and nutrient composition was analyzed from a weekly composite. Milk composition was analyzed weekly, alternating between morning and evening milking periods. Estimates of RFI were determined as the difference between actual energy intake and predicted intake based on a linear model with fixed effects of parity (1, 2, = 3) and regressions on metabolic BW, ADG, and energy-corrected milk yield. Heritability was estimated to be moderate (0.36 ± 0.06), and repeatability was estimated at 0.56 across lactations. A test period through 53 days in milk (DIM) explained 81% of the variation provided by a test through 90 DIM. Multiple regression analysis indicated that high efficiency was associated with less time feeding per day and slower feeding rate, which may contribute to differences in RFI among cows. The heritability and repeatability of RFI suggest an opportunity to improve feed efficiency through genetic selection, which could reduce feed costs, manure output, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairy production.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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