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Defining the optimal period length and stage of growth or lactation to estimate residual feed intake in dairy cows.

Connor, E E; Hutchison, J L; Van Tassell, C P; Cole, J B.
J Dairy Sci; 102(7): 6131-6143, 2019 Jul.
Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31030925
Residual feed intake (RFI) is an estimate of animal feed efficiency, calculated as the difference between observed and expected feed intake. Expected intake typically is derived from a multiple regression model of dry matter intake on energy sinks, including maintenance and growth in growing animals, or maintenance, gain in body reserves, and milk production in lactating animals. The best period during the production cycle of a dairy cow to estimate RFI is not clear. Here, we characterized RFI in growing Holstein heifers (RFIGrowth; ∼10 to 14 mo of age; n = 226) and cows throughout a 305-d lactation (RFILac-Full; n = 118). The goals were to characterize relationships between RFI estimated at different production stages of the dairy cow; determine effects of selection for efficiency during growth on subsequent lactation and feed efficiency; and identify the most desirable testing scheme for RFILac-Full. For RFIGrowth, intake was predicted from multiple linear regression of metabolizable energy (ME) intake on mid-test body weight (BW)0.75 and average daily gain (ADG). For RFILac-Full, predicted intake was based on regression of BW0.75, ADG, and energy-corrected milk yield. Mean energy intake of the least and most efficient growing heifers (±0.5 standard deviations from mean RFIGrowth of 0) differed by 3.01 Mcal of ME/d, but the groups showed no difference in mid-test BW or ADG. Phenotypic correlation between RFIGrowth and RFI of heifers estimated in the first 100 d in milk (RFILac100DIM; n = 130) was 0.37. Ranking of these heifers as least (mean + 0.5 standard deviations), middle, or most efficient (mean - 0.5 standard deviations) based on RFIGrowth resulted in 43% maintaining the same ranking by RFILac100DIM. On average, the most efficient heifers ate 3.27 Mcal of ME/d less during the first 100 DIM than the least efficient heifers, but exhibited no differences in average energy-corrected milk yield, ADG, or BW. The correlation between RFILac100DIM and RFILac-Full was 0.72. Thus, RFIGrowth may serve as an indicator trait for RFI during lactation, and selection for heifers exhibiting low RFIGrowth should improve overall herd feed efficiency during lactation. Correlation analysis between RFILac-Full (10 to 305 DIM) and subperiod estimates of RFI during lactation indicated a test period of 64 to 70 d in duration occurring between 150 to 220 DIM provided a reliable approximation (r ≥ 0.90) of RFILac-Full among the test periods evaluated.