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Identification of biological traits associated with differences in residual energy intake among lactating Holstein cows

Abstract : Residual feed intake, which is usually used to estimate individual variation of feed efficiency, requires frequent and accurate measurements of individual feed intake to be carried out. Developing a breeding scheme based on residual feed intake in dairy cows is therefore complicated, especially because feed intake is not measurable for a large population. Another solution could be to focus on biological determinants of feed efficiency, which could potentially be directly and broadband measurable on farm. Several phenotypes have been identified in literature as being associated with differences in feed efficiency. The present study therefore aims to identify which biological mechanisms are associated with residual energy intake (REI) differences among dairy cows. Several candidate phenotypes were recorded frequently and simultaneously throughout the first 238 d in milk for 60 Holstein cows fed on a constant diet based on maize silage. A multiple linear regression of the 238 d in milk average of net energy intake was fitted on the 238 d in milk averages for milk energy output, metabolic body weight, the sum over the 238 d in milk of both, body condition score loss and gain, and the residuals were defined as REI. A partial least square regression was fitted over all biological traits to explain REI variability. Linear multiple regression explained 93.6% of net energy intake phenotypic variation, with 65.5% associated with lactation requirement, 23.2% with maintenance, and 4.9% with body reserves change; the 6.4% residuals represented REI. Overall, measured biological traits contributed to 58.9% of REI phenotypic variability, which were mainly explained by activity (26.5%) and feeding behavior (21.3%). However, apparent confounding was observed between behavior, activity, digestibility, and rumen-temperature variables. Drawing a conclusion on biological traits that explain feed efficiency differences among dairy cows was not possible due to this apparent confounding between the measured variables. Further investigation is needed to validate these results and to characterize the causal relationship of feed efficiency with feeding behavior, digestibility, body reserves change, activity, and rumen temperature.
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Amélie Fischer, Remy Delagarde, Philippe Faverdin. Identification of biological traits associated with differences in residual energy intake among lactating Holstein cows. Journal of Dairy Science, American Dairy Science Association, 2018, 101 (5), pp.4193-4211. ⟨10.3168/jds.2017-12636⟩. ⟨hal-02623406⟩

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