The objectives of this study were to calculate the heritability of feed efficiency and residual feed intake, and examine the relationships between feed efficiency and other traits of productive and economic importance. Intake and body measurement data were collected monthly on 970 cows in 11 tie-stall herds for 6 consecutive mo. Measures of efficiency for this study were: dry matter intake efficiency (DMIE), defined as 305-d fat-corrected milk (FCM)/305-d DMI, net energy for lactation efficiency (NELE), defined as 305-d FCM/05-d NEL intake, and crude protein efficiency (CPE), defined as 305-d true protein yield/305-d CP intake. Residual feed intake (RFI) was calculated by regressing daily DMI on daily milk, fat, and protein yields, body weight (BW), daily body condition score (BCS) gain or loss, the interaction between BW and BCS gain or loss, and days in milk (DIM). Data were analyzed with 3- and 4-trait animal models and included 305-d FCM or protein yield, DM, NEL, or CP intake, BW, BCS, BCS change between DIM 1 and 60, milk urea nitrogen, somatic cell score, RFI, or an alternative efficiency measure. Data were analyzed with and without significant covariates for BCS and BCS change between DIM 1 and 60. The average DMIE, NELE, and CPE were 1.61, 0.98, and 0.32, respectively. Heritability of gross feed efficiency was 0.14 for DMIE, 0.18 for NELE, and 0.21 for CPE, and heritability of RFI was 0.01. Body weight and BCS had high and negative correlations with the efficiency traits (-0.64 to -0.70), indicating that larger and fatter cows were less feed efficient than smaller and thinner cows. When BCS covariates were included in the model, cows identified as being highly efficient produced 2.3 kg/d less FCM in early lactation due to less early lactation loss of BCS. Results from this study suggest that selection for higher yield and lower BW will increase feed efficiency, and that body tissue mobilization should be considered.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology