Dry matter intake in US Holstein cows: exploring the genomic and phenotypic impact of milk components and body weight composite

J Dairy Sci. 2024 May 14:S0022-0302(24)00781-1. doi: 10.3168/jds.2023-24296. Online ahead of print.


Large data sets allow estimating feed required for individual milk components or body maintenance. Phenotypic regressions are useful for nutrition management, but genetic regressions are more useful in breeding programs. Dry matter intake (DMI) records from 8,513 lactations of 6,621 Holstein cows were predicted from phenotypes or genomic evaluations for milk components and body size traits. The mixed models also included days in milk, age-parity subclass, trial date, management group, and body weight change during 28- and 42-d feeding trials in mid-lactation. Phenotypic regressions of DMI on milk (0.014 ± 0.006), fat (3.06 ± 0.01), and protein (4.79 ± 0.25) were much less than corresponding genomic regressions (0.08 ± 0.03, 11.30 ± 0.47, and 9.35 ± 0.87) or sire genomic regressions multiplied by 2 (0.048 ± 0.04, 6.73 ± 0.94, and 4.98 ± 1.75). Thus, marginal feed costs as fractions of marginal milk revenue were higher from genetic than phenotypic regressions. According to the energy-corrected milk formula, fat production requires 69% more DMI than protein production. In the phenotypic regression, it was estimated that protein production requires 56% more DMI than fat. However, the genomic regression for the animal showed a difference of only 21% more DMI for protein compared with fat, while the sire genomic regressions indicated approximately 35% more DMI for fat than protein. Estimates of annual maintenance in kg DMI / kg body weight/lactation were similar from phenotypic regression (5.9 ± 0.14), genomic regression (5.8 ± 0.31), and sire genomic regression multiplied by 2 (5.3 ± 0.55) and are larger than those estimated by NASEM (2021) based on NEL equations. Multiple regressions on genomic evaluations for the 5 type traits in body weight composite (BWC) showed that strength was the type trait most associated with body weight and DMI, agreeing with the current BWC formula, whereas other traits were less useful predictors, especially for DMI. The Net Merit formula used to weight different genetic traits to achieve an economically optimal overall selection response was revised in 2021 to better account for these estimated regressions. To improve profitability, breeding programs should select smaller cows with negative residual feed intake that produce more milk, fat, and protein.

Keywords: Body weight; Feed intake; Maintenance.