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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Genetic parameters of forage dry matter intake and milk produced from forage in Swedish Red and Holstein dairy cows

Tarekegn, Getinet Mekuriaw; Karlsson, Johanna; Kronqvist, Cecilia; Berglund, Britt; Holtenius, Kjell; Strandberg, Erling


High-yielding dairy cows are often fed high proportions of cereal grain and pulses. For several reasons, it would be desirable to replace these feed sources with forage, which is not suitable for human consumption. Feeding large amounts of forage to dairy cows could also make dairy production more publicly acceptable in the future. In this study, we estimated genetic parameters for total dry matter intake (DMI), DMI from forage (DMIFor), energy-corrected milk (ECM), and ECM produced from forage (ECMFor). A total of 1,177 lactations from 575 cows of Swedish Red (SR) and Holstein (HOL) dairy breeds were included in the study. Mixed linear animal random regression models were used, with fixed effect of calving season and lactation week nested within parity 1 and 2+, fixed effect of calving year, and random regression coefficients for breeding value (up to linear) and permanent environmental effect (up to quadratic) of the cow. Heritability for DMI and DMIFor was generally higher for HOL than for SR in all-parity data and in later parities; however, the opposite was true for first parity. Heritability for DMI and DMIFor during the first 8 wk averaged 0.11 and 0.15, respectively, in all-parity data for the 2 breeds. Corresponding values for ECMFor and ECM were 0.21 and 0.29, respectively. In first parity, values were 0.32, 0.36, 0.28, and 0.51, respectively. The genetic correlation between DMI and DMIFor was high, above 0.83, and fairly constant across the lactation. The genetic correlation between ECMFor and ECM was close to unity in the later part of lactation for both breeds, but was around 0.8 in the early lactation for both breeds; it decreased for HOL to 0.54 in wk 17. The genetic correlations between DMI and ECMFor and between DMIFor and ECMFor were low and negative for HOL (absolute value similar to 0.2-0.3), but changed for SR from weakly positive in early lactation to negative values and back to positive toward the end of lactation. For most traits, the correlation between wk 1 and wk 8 into the lactation was very high; the lowest value was for DMI in HOL at 0.81. The genetic correlation between parities was rather high in the first part of the lactation. During the first 8 wk, the correlation was lower for HOL than for SR, except for ECM. We found that DMIFor and ECMFor showed reasonably large heritability, and future work should explore the possibility of genomic evaluations.


roughage; feed efficiency; heritability

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2021, Volume: 104, number: 4, pages: 4424-4440