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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Genetic heterogeneity of feed intake, energy-corrected milk, and body weight across lactation in primiparous Holstein, Nordic Red, and Jersey cows

Li, B.; Fikse, W. F.; Lovendahl, P.; Lassen, J.; Lidauer, M. H.; Mantysaari, P.; Berglund, B.


In this study, we aimed to estimate and compare the genetic parameters of dry matter intake (DMI), energy-corrected milk (ECM), and body weight (BW) as 3 feed efficiency-related traits across lactation in 3 dairy cattle breeds (Holstein, Nordic Red, and Jersey). The analyses were based on weekly records of DMI, ECM, and BW per cow across lactation for 842 primiparous Holstein cows, 746 primiparous Nordic Red cows, and 378 primiparous Jersey cows. A random regression model was applied to estimate variance components and genetic parameters for DMI, ECM, and BW in each lactation week within each breed. Phenotypic means of DMI, ECM, and BW observations across lactation showed to be in very similar patterns between breeds, whereas breed differences lay in the average level of DMI, ECM, and BW. Generally, for all studied breeds, the heritability for DMI ranged from 0.2 to 0.4 across lactation and was in a range similar to the heritability for ECM. The heritability for BW ranged from 0.4 to 0.6 across lactation, higher than the heritability for DMI or ECM. Among the studied breeds, the heritability estimates for DMI shared a very similar range between breeds, whereas the heritability estimates for ECM tended to be different between breeds. For BW, the heritability estimates also tended to follow a similar range between breeds. Among the studied traits, the genetic variance and heritability for DMI varied across lactation, and the genetic correlations between DMI at different lactation stages were less than unity, indicating a genetic heterogeneity of feed intake across lactation in dairy cattle. In contrast, BW was the most genetically consistent trait across lactation, where BW among all lactation weeks was highly correlated. Genetic correlations between DMI, ECM, and BW changed across lactation, especially in early lactation. Energy-corrected milk had a low genetic correlation with both DMI and BW at the beginning of lactation, whereas ECM was highly correlated with DMI in mid and late lactation. Based on our results, genetic heterogeneity of DMI, ECM, and BW across lactation generally was observed in all studied dairy breeds, especially for DMI, which should be carefully considered for the recording strategy of these traits. The genetic correlations between DMI, ECM, and BW changed across lactation and followed similar patterns between breeds.


feed efficiency; dairy cattle; genetic parameter; genetic heterogeneity; breed difference

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2018, Volume: 101, number: 11, pages: 10011-10021 Publisher: ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC