Predicted Feed Efficiency index applied to Italian Holstein Friesian cattle population

Raffaella Finocchiaro, Fabio Omodei Zorini, Jan-Thijs van Kaam, Guido Invernizzi, Maurizio Marusi, Tania Bobbo, Giovanni Savoini


Submitted 2020-08-02 | Accepted 2020-09-21 | Available 2020-12-01

Feed efficiency has a major influence on farm profitability and environmental stewardship in the dairy industry. The aim of this study was to describe a new selection index adopted by the Italian Holstein and Jersey Association (ANAFIJ, Cremona, Italy) to improve feed efficiency using data recorded by the official dairy recording system. Predicted dry matter intake (pDMI) was derived from milk yield, fat content, and estimated cow body weight. Fat-protein corrected milk (FPCM) was derived from milk yield corrected for fat, protein, and a fixed coefficient for lactose content (4.80%). Therefore, the predicted feed efficiency (pFE) was estimated as ratio between FPCM and pDMI. Average pFE was 1.27±0.18 (kg.d-1) with heritability of 0.32. Predicted Feed Efficiency index (pFEi), traditional and genomic, has been implemented in the Italian Holstein Friesian evaluation system. Results suggest that pFEi may be a new breeding objective for Italian Friesians. The official selection index (PFT), in use since 2002, is positively correlated with pFEi. However, the introduction of pFEi will improve the positive feed efficiency trend. This approach will permit the Italian Holstein Friesian breeders to improve feed efficiency, without increasing costs of recording system. However, to avoid the risk of selecting animals with an excessive negative energy balance after calving, it would be useful to include in the pFE a correction for body condition score and reproductive performances. Meanwhile, in order to increase the accuracy of the predicted phenotype, an Italian consortium is creating a consistent phenotypic critical mass of individual data for dry matter intake in cows, heifers and young bulls.

Keywords: feed efficiency, cattle breeding, dry matter intake, breeding value estimation


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