The response to genetic merit for milk production in dairy cows differs by cow body weight
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CitationD.P. Berry, R.D. Evans, The response to genetic merit for milk production in dairy cows differs by cow body weight, JDS Communications, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2022, Pages 32-37, ISSN 2666-9102, https://doi.org/10.3168/jdsc.2021-0115.
AbstractAttention is increasing on both cow size and body weight (BW) as energy sinks and thus as contributors to differences in production efficiency among cows. What is not currently clear, however, is how cow BW affects the increase in yield per cow per unit increase in genetic merit for milk production. This void in knowledge was filled in the present study using BW data from 20,470 lactations on 16,980 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows stratified into 4 groups on BW adjusted for differences in parity, days in milk, and body condition score. Using linear mixed models that adjusted for nuisance factors, cow phenotypic milk production variables were regressed on estimates of parental average genetic merit for the respective trait within each stratum of BW defined within contemporary group; estimates of genetic merit were from the national genetic evaluations. Both the intercept and linear regression coefficients on genetic merit were compared across BW strata. The intercepts representing the mean phenotypic yield at a genetic merit of zero differed among BW strata; irrespective of yield trait, the least squares means yield per BW stratum increased numerically as cows got heavier, although not every stepwise increase in BW stratum was associated with significantly greater yield compared with the previous (lighter) stratum. Nonetheless, the yield of the cows in the lightest of the 4 strata was always less than that of the heaviest 2 strata; relative to the lightest stratum, cows in the heaviest BW stratum produced only 3 to 4% more yield. Furthermore, the association between phenotypic yield and its respective measures of genetic merit differed by BW stratum; the response to selection for each of the yield traits was 15 to 23% greater for the heaviest stratum of cows compared with their contemporaries in the lightest stratum. Although BW stratum was associated with mean fat and protein concentration after adjusting for differences in genetic merit for fat and protein concentration, the association did not differ by BW stratum for either fat or protein concentration. The effect of BW on efficiency should consider the association between BW and not only mean phenotypic yield at a given genetic merit, but also how the differences in yield diverge as genetic merit increases.
FunderDepartment of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland
Grant NumberRSF 17/S/235; 16/RC/3835
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