The dynamic behavior of feed efficiency in primiparous dairy cattle

Open Access
A. Cánovas T.C.S. Chud J.P. Cant V.R. Osborne C.F. Baes F.S. Schenkel F. Miglior

by D. J. Seymour on 15/12/2019
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A variety of measures are currently used to evaluate feed efficiency in livestock, with some of the most popular being the linear regression of nutrient intake on the various energy sinks of the cohort being evaluated. The adoption of novel on-farm technologies has greatly increased the breadth and depth of data being collected on a daily basis, which creates the opportunity for the implementation of more advanced feed efficiency models. The objectives of the current study were to leverage data collected using high-throughput biometric technologies to evaluate changes of early-lactation feed efficiency on a daily basis and to develop a novel measure of feed efficiency based on the NRC net energy model. Daily records of nutrient intake, fat- and protein-corrected milk yield, body weight, and body condition score were used to model 7 different indices of feed efficiency (gross feed efficiency, return over feed costs, residual feed intake, residual net energy intake, and net energy efficiencies of lactation, maintenance, and body reserve flux) in primiparous Holstein heifers (n = 40) from 0 to 150 d in milk. We observed that feed efficiency was dynamic and fluctuated over the course of the experimental period regardless of the efficiency measure used, but most measures followed similar trends in changes of efficiency on a day-to-day basis. Of the measures evaluated, return over feed costs would be most suited for management purposes due to practicality and simplicity, whereas other measures, such as the efficiency of net energy flux to and from body reserves, present potential targets for inclusion in breeding goals. Net energy efficiency of lactation was estimated to have higher repeatability compared with residual feed or energy intake, which may reduce the time required to estimate whole-lactation efficiency. Because decreased net energy balance was strongly correlated with increased efficiency for all indices evaluated, future work investigating the associations of feed efficiency with the magnitude and duration of negative energy balance is warranted.

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