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Genetic and phenotypic correlations among feed efficiency, production and selected conformation traits in dairy cows

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2015

G. Manafiazar
Affiliation:
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, 87 Street, Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2P5
L. Goonewardene
Affiliation:
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, 87 Street, Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2P5
F. Miglior
Affiliation:
Canadian Dairy Network, 660 Speedvale Avenue West, Guelph, ON, Canada N1K 1E5 University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1
D. H. Crews Jr.
Affiliation:
Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 USA
J. A. Basarab
Affiliation:
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Lacombe Research Centre, 6000 C & E Trail, Lacombe, AB, Canada T4L 1W1
E. Okine
Affiliation:
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, 87 Street, Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2P5
Z. Wang*
Affiliation:
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, 87 Street, Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2P5
*Corresponding
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Abstract

The difficulties and costs of measuring individual feed intake in dairy cattle are the primary factors limiting the genetic study of feed intake and utilisation, and hence the potential of their subsequent industry-wide applications. However, indirect selection based on heritable, easily measurable, and genetically correlated traits, such as conformation traits, may be an alternative approach to improve feed efficiency. The aim of this study was to estimate genetic and phenotypic correlations among feed intake, production, and feed efficiency traits (particularly residual feed intake; RFI) with routinely recorded conformation traits. A total of 496 repeated records from 260 Holstein dairy cows in different lactations (260, 159 and 77 from first, second and third lactation, respectively) were considered in this study. Individual daily feed intake and monthly BW and body condition scores of these animals were recorded from 5 to 305 days in milk within each lactation from June 2007 to July 2013. Milk yield and composition data of all animals within each lactation were retrieved, and the first lactation conformation traits for primiparous animals were extracted from databases. Individual RFI over 301 days was estimated using linear regression of total 301 days actual energy intake on a total of 301 days estimated traits of metabolic BW, milk production energy requirement, and empty BW change. Pair-wise bivariate animal models were used to estimate genetic and phenotypic parameters among the studied traits. Estimated heritabilities of total intake and production traits ranged from 0.27±0.07 for lactation actual energy intake to 0.45±0.08 for average body condition score over 301 days of the lactation period. RFI showed a moderate heritability estimate (0.20±0.03) and non-significant phenotypic and genetic correlations with lactation 3.5 % fat-corrected milk and average BW over lactation. Among the conformation traits, dairy strength, stature, rear attachment width, chest width and pin width had significant (P<0.05) moderate to strong genetic correlations with RFI. Combinations of these conformation traits could be used as RFI indicators in the dairy genetic improvement programmes to increase the accuracy of the genetic evaluation of feed intake and utilisation included in the index.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Animal Consortium 2015 

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