Estimating breeding values for feed efficiency in dairy cattle by regression on expected feed intake

Lidauer, M.H.; Negussie, E.; Mäntysaari, E.A.; Mäntysaari, P.; Kajava, S.; Kokkonen, T.; Chegini, A.; Mehtiö, T.

Animal An International Journal of Animal Bioscience 17(9): 100917


ISSN/ISBN: 1751-732X
PMID: 37573639
Accession: 090453393

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The efficiency with which a dairy cow utilises feed for the various physiological and metabolic processes can be evaluated by metrics that contrast realised feed intake with expected feed intake. In this study, we presented a new metric - regression on expected feed intake (ReFI). This metric is based on the idea of regressing DM intake (DMI) on expected DMI using a random regression model, where energy requirement formulations are applied for the calculation of expected DMI covariables. We compared this new metric with the metrics residual feed intake (RFI) and genetic residual feed intake (gRFI), by applying them on 18 581 feed efficiency records from 654 primiparous Nordic Red dairy cows. We estimated variance components for the three metrics and their respective genetic correlations with intake and production traits. In addition, we examined the phenotypes of superior cows. With ReFI, we estimated for feed efficiency a higher genetic variation (4.7%) and heritability (0.23) compared to applying RFI or gRFI. The ReFI metric was genetically uncorrelated with DMI and negatively correlated within energy-corrected milk (ECM), whereas the RFI metric was genetically positively correlated with DMI and metabolic BW. The gRFI metric was genetically positively correlated with DMI and uncorrelated with energy sink traits. Overall, the estimated SE were large. The ReFI metric resulted in a different ranking of cows compared to those based on RFI or gRFI and was superior in selecting the most efficient animals. When the selection was based on ReFI breeding values, then the 10% most efficient cows produced 12.3% more ECM per unit metabolisable energy intake, whereas the corresponding values were only 4.3 or 5.9% when using RFI or gRFI breeding values, respectively. Based on ReFI, superior cows had also higher milk production, whereas based on RFI or gRFI milk production either decreased or was unaffected, respectively. The superiority of the ReFI metric in selecting efficient cows was due to a better modelling of the expected feed intake. The ReFI metric simplified modelling of feed utilisation efficiency in dairy cattle and resulted in breeding values that are equal to percentages of feed saved.