Genetic parameters for dry matter intake in primiparous Holstein, Nordic Red, and Jersey cows in the first half of lactation

B. Li*, W. F. Fikse, J. Lassen, M. H. Lidauer, P. Løvendahl, P. Mäntysaari, B. Berglund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Dry matter intake (DMI) is a key component of feed efficiency in dairy cattle. In this study, we estimated genetic parameters of DMI over the first 24 lactation weeks in 3 dairy cattle breeds: Holstein, Nordic Red, and Jersey. In total, 1,656 primiparous cows (717 Holstein, 663 Nordic Red, and 276 Jersey) from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden were studied. For each breed, variance components, heritability, and repeatability for weekly DMI were estimated in 6 consecutive periods of the first 24 lactation weeks based on a repeatability animal model. Genetic correlations for DMI between different lactation periods were estimated using bivariate models. Based on our results, Holstein and Nordic Red cows had similar DMI at the beginning of lactation, but later in lactation Holstein cows had a slightly higher DMI than Nordic Red cows. In comparison, Jersey cows had a significantly lower DMI than the other 2 breeds within the first 24 lactation weeks. Heritability estimates for DMI ranged from 0.20 to 0.40 in Holsteins, 0.25 to 0.41 in Nordic Red, and 0.17 to 0.42 in Jerseys within the first 24 lactation weeks. Genetic and phenotypic variances for DMI varied along lactation within each breed and tended to be higher in the middle of lactation than at the beginning of the lactation. High genetic correlations were noted for DMI in lactation wk 5 to 24 in all 3 breeds, whereas DMI at early lactation (lactation wk 1 to 4) tended to be genetically different from DMI in the middle of lactation. The 3 breeds in this study might differ in their genetic variances for DMI, but the differences were not statistically significant in most of the studied periods. Breed differences for the genetic variance tended to be more obvious than for heritability. The potential breed differences in genetic variation for DMI should be considered in a future study using feed intake information from multiple breeds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7232-7239
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
Early online date29 Jun 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 29 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • dairy cattle
  • dry matter intake
  • feed efficiency
  • genetic correlation
  • heritability


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