Predicting bovine milk protein composition based on Fourier transform infrared spectra

J Dairy Sci. 2011 Nov;94(11):5683-90. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4520.


Phenotypic information on individual protein composition of cows is important for many aspects of dairy processing with cheese production as the center of gravity. However, measuring individual protein composition is expensive and time consuming. In this study, we investigated whether protein composition can be predicted based on inexpensive and routinely measured milk Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra. Based on 900 calibration and 900 validation samples that had both capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE)-determined protein composition and FTIR spectra available, low to moderate validation R(2) were reached (from 0.18 for α(S1)-casein to 0.56 for β-lactoglobulin). The potential usefulness of this model on the phenotypic level was investigated by means of achieved selection differentials for 25% of the best animals. For α-lactalbumin (R(2)=0.20), the selection differential amounted to 0.18 g/100g and for casein index (R(2)=0.50) to 1.24 g/100g. We concluded that predictions of protein composition were not accurate enough to enable selection of individual animals. However, for specific purposes when, for example, groups of animals that meet a certain threshold are to be selected, the presented model could be useful in practice on the phenotypic level. The potential usefulness of this model on the genetic level was investigated by means of genetic correlations between CZE-determined and FTIR-predicted protein composition traits. The genetic correlations ranged from 0.62 (β-casein) to 0.97 (whey). Thus, predictions of protein composition, when used as input to estimate breeding values, provide an excellent means for genetic improvement of protein composition. In addition, estimated repeatabilities based on 3 repeated observations of predicted protein composition showed that a considerable amount of prediction error can be removed using repeated observations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / genetics
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Female
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk Proteins / analysis*
  • Milk Proteins / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / veterinary*


  • Milk Proteins