Genomic prediction of residual feed intake in US Holstein dairy cattle

B. Li, P. M. VanRaden, E. Guduk, J. R. O'Connell, D. J. Null, E. E. Connor, M. J. VandeHaar, R. J. Tempelman, K. A. Weigel, J. B. Cole*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Genomic selection is an important tool to introduce feed efficiency into dairy cattle breeding. The goals of the current research are to estimate genomic breeding values of residual feed intake (RFI) and to assess the prediction reliability for RFI in the US Holstein population. The RFI data were collected from 4,823 lactations of 3,947 Holstein cows in 9 research herds in the United States, and were pre-adjusted to remove phenotypic correlations with milk energy, metabolic body weight, body weight change, and for several environmental effects. In the current analyses, genomic predicted transmitting abilities of milk energy and of body weight composite were included into the RFI model to further remove the genetic correlations that remained between RFI and these energy sinks. In the first part of the analyses, a national genomic evaluation for RFI was conducted for all the Holsteins in the national database using a standard multi-step genomic evaluation method and 60,671 SNP list. In the second part of the study, a single-step genomic prediction method was applied to estimate genomic breeding values of RFI for all cows with phenotypes, 5,252 elite young bulls, 4,029 young heifers, as well as their ancestors in the pedigree, using a high-density genotype chip. Theoretical prediction reliabilities were calculated for all the studied animals in the single-step genomic prediction by direct inversion of the mixed model equations. In the results, breeding values were estimated for 1.6 million genotyped Holsteins and 60 million ungenotyped Holsteins, The genomic predicted transmitting ability correlations between RFI and other traits in the index (e.g., fertility) are generally low, indicating minor correlated responses on other index traits when selecting for RFI. Genomic prediction reliabilities for RFI averaged 34% for all phenotyped animals and 13% for all 1.6 million genotyped animals. Including genomic information increased the prediction reliabilities for RFI compared with using only pedigree information. All bulls had low reliabilities, and averaged to only 16% for the top 100 net merit progeny-tested bulls. Analyses using single-step genomic prediction and high-density genotypes gave similar results to those obtained from the national evaluation. The average theoretical reliability for RFI was 18% among the elite young bulls under 5 yr old, being lower in the younger generations of elite bulls compared with older bulls. To conclude, the size of the reference population and its relationship to the predicted population remain as the limiting factors in the genomic prediction for RFI. Continued collection of feed intake data is necessary so that reliabilities can be maintained due to close relationships of phenotyped animals with breeding stock. Considering the currently low prediction reliability and high cost of data collection, focusing RFI data collection on relatives of elite bulls that will have the greatest genetic contribution to the next generation will give more gains and profit

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2477-2486
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jan 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • dairy cow
  • feed efficiency
  • genomic prediction
  • residual feed intake


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