The objectives of this study were to determine the feasibility of measuring feed intake in commercial tie-stall dairies and infer genetic parameters of feed intake, yield, somatic cell score, milk urea nitrogen, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), and linear type traits of Holstein cows. Feed intake, BW, and BCS were measured on 970 cows in 11 Pennsylvania tie-stall herds. Historical test-day data from these cows and 739 herdmates who were contemporaries during earlier lactations were also included. Feed intake was measured by researchers once per month over a 24-h period within 7 d of 6 consecutive Dairy Herd Information test days. Feed samples from each farm were collected monthly on the same day that feed intake was measured and were used to calculate intakes of dry matter, crude protein, and net energy of lactation. Test-day records were analyzed with multiple-trait animal models, and 305-d fat-corrected milk yield, dry matter intake, crude protein intake, net energy of lactation intake, average BW, and average BCS were derived from the test-day models. The 305-d traits were also analyzed with multiple-trait animal models that included a prediction of 40-wk dry matter intake derived from National Research Council equations. Heritability estimates for 305-d intake of dry matter, crude protein, and net energy of lactation ranged from 0.15 to 0.18. Genetic correlations of predicted dry matter intake with 305-d dry matter, crude protein, and net energy of lactation intake were 0.84, 0.90, and 0.94, respectively. Genetic correlations among the 3 intake traits and fat-corrected milk yield, BW, and stature were moderate to high (0.52 to 0.63). Results indicate that feed intake measured in commercial tie-stalls once per month has sufficient accuracy to enable genetic research. High-producing and larger cows were genetically inclined to have higher feed intake. The genetic correlation between observed and predicted intakes was less than unity, indicating potential variation in feed efficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology