Genetic analysis of the Fourier-transform infrared spectra of bovine milk with emphasis on individual wavelengths related to specific chemical bonds

J Dairy Sci. 2013 Sep;96(9):5991-6006. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-6583. Epub 2013 Jun 28.


Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectra are used to predict the fat, protein, casein, and lactose contents of milk. These estimates are currently used to predict the individual estimated breeding values of animals. The objective of the present study was to estimate the genetic variation and heritabilities of the milk transmittance spectrum at each individual FTIR wave. Milk was sampled once per cow from a total of 1,064 Italian Brown Swiss cows from 30 herds, sired by 50 artificial insemination sires. The FTIR spectra of all samples were collected within 3 h of sampling from 25 mL of milk. The obtained spectral range comprised wavenumbers 5,000 to 930×cm(-1), corresponding to wavelengths 2.00 to 10.76 μm and frequencies from 149.9 to 27.9 THz, for a total of 1,056 waves. These were acquired using a MilkoScan FT120 FTIR interferometer (Foss Electric A/S, Hillerød, Denmark). Each spectral data point was treated as a single trait and analyzed using an animal model REML method. The results indicated that the transmittance of the bovine milk FTIR spectrum was heritable for most individual waves in the wavenumber interval from 5,000 to 930×cm(-1). Moreover, the transmittance of contiguous FTIR waves was much more highly correlated in terms of the average value and phenotypic variation, compared with genetic variation. In the present study, we characterized 5 regions of the FTIR spectrum that were relevant to the analysis of milk; 2 regions, one in the transition area between the short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) and mid-wavelength infrared (MWIR) divisions of the electromagnetic spectrum (SWIR-MWIR region) and another very short region in the MWIR division (MWIR-2 region), were characterized by very high phenotypic variability in the transmittance of individual milk samples within each wave. This was caused by the absorption peaks of water, which can mask the effects of other important milk components. These regions also showed high genetic variability in transmittance, and the heritability estimates of individual waves were generally very low (with some exceptions). The 3 other identified regions contained many transmittance peaks that represented important chemical bonds; these showed much lower phenotypic and genetic variability in terms of individual waves, but relatively higher and less variable heritability estimates. Among them, the SWIR region (near-infrared) showed a peculiar cyclic pattern of the heritability coefficients of transmittance, the MWIR-1 region was particularly important for the estimation of fat, and the MWIR-LWIR region (also known also as the "fingerprint region") had 3 areas of relatively high heritability. In summary, we found that the transmittance data from the FTIR spectra of milk have genetic variability that may prove useful for the direct genetic improvement of dairy species, rather than only through indirect phenotypic predictions of individual milk quality and technological traits.

Keywords: heritability; mid-infrared; milk; spectroscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Lactation / genetics
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / veterinary*