Hot topic: Definition and implementation of a breeding value for feed efficiency in dairy cows

JE Pryce, O Gonzalez-Recio, G Nieuwhof, WJ Wales, MP Coffey, BJ Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


A new breeding value that combines the amount of feed saved through improved metabolic efficiency with predicted maintenance requirements is described. The breeding value includes a genomic component for residual feed intake (RFI) combined with maintenance requirements calculated from either a genomic or pedigree estimated breeding value (EBV) for body weight (BW) predicted using conformation traits. Residual feed intake is only available for genotyped Holsteins; however, BW is available for all breeds. The RFI component of the “feed saved” EBV has 2 parts: Australian calf RFI and Australian lactating cow RFI. Genomic breeding values for RFI were estimated from a reference population of 2,036 individuals in a multi-trait analysis including Australian calf RFI (n = 843), Australian lactating cow RFI (n = 234), and UK and Dutch lactating cow RFI (n = 958). In all cases, the RFI phenotypes were deviations from a mean of 0, calculated by correcting dry matter intake for BW, growth, and milk yield (in the case of lactating cows). Single nucleotide polymorphism effects were calculated from the output of genomic BLUP and used to predict breeding values of 4,106 Holstein sires that were genotyped but did not have RFI phenotypes themselves. These bulls already had BW breeding values calculated from type traits, from which maintenance requirements in kilograms of feed per year were inferred. Finally, RFI and the feed required for maintenance (through BW) were used to calculate a feed saved breeding value and expressed as the predicted amount of feed saved per year. Animals that were 1 standard deviation above the mean were predicted to eat 66 kg dry matter less per year at the same level of milk production. In a data set of genotyped Holstein sires, the mean reliability of the feed saved breeding value was 0.37. For Holsteins that are not genotyped and for breeds other than Holsteins, feed saved is calculated using BW only. From April 2015, feed saved has been included as part of the Australian national selection index, the Balanced Performance Index (BPI). Selection on the BPI is expected to lead to modest gains in feed efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7340-7350
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
Early online date5 Aug 2015
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note



  • Body weight
  • Feed efficiency
  • Residual feed intake


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