NEW ZEALAND - Geneticists are “well on their way” to predicting how efficient a cow is at using feed, potentially saving farm feed costs.
A breeding value, known as residual feed intake (RFI), will measure feed needed for producing milk solids and body maintenance, with selection processes then accounting for this.
Presently, efficiency can be driven by selecting for cows that combine higher milksolids per kg o liveweight, longer lives and earlier calving, according industry levy board DairyNZ and the Livestock Improvement Corporation.
“By contrast, RFI – which is the difference between predicted feed intake and actual feed intake on a daily basis, is about an animal generating the maximum performance out of a unit of feed consumed,” said a DiaryNZ spokesperson.
If a cow consumes 1kg DM (dry matter) less per day for the same level of milksolids production, this saves farmers $85 per year in feed costs for a single cow.
Investigations have shown there is economic justification for pursuing RFI as a new trait for BW, according to New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL) manager, Dr Jeremy Bryant.
However, he added: "There are still some unanswered questions before we can make definitive conclusions and include RFI in BW."
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