Incorporating heifer feed efficiency in the Australian selection index using genomic selection Academic Article uri icon


  • The economic benefit of expanding the Australian Profit Ranking (APR) index to include residual feed intake (RFI) was evaluated using a multitrait selection index. This required the estimation of genetic parameters for RFI and genetic correlations using single nucleotide polymorphism data (genomic) correlations with other traits. Heritabilities of RFI, dry matter intake (DMI), and all the traits in the APR (milk, fat, and protein yields; somatic cell count; fertility; survival; milking speed; and temperament), and genomic correlations between these traits were estimated using a Bayesian framework, using data from 843 growing Holstein heifers with phenotypes for DMI and RFI, and bulls with records for the other traits. Heritability estimates of DMI and RFI were 0.44 and 0.33, respectively, and the genomic correlation between them was 0.03 and nonsignificant. The genomic correlations between the feed-efficiency traits and milk yield traits were also close to zero, ranging between -0.11 and 0.10. Positive genomic correlations were found for DMI with stature (0.16) and with overall type (0.14), suggesting that taller cows eat more as heifers. One issue was that the genomic correlation estimates for RFI with calving interval (ClvI) and with body condition score were both unfavorable (-0.13 and 0.71 respectively), suggesting an antagonism between feed efficiency and fertility. However, because of the relatively small numbers of animals in this study, a large 95% probability interval existed for the genomic correlation between RFI and ClvI (-0.66, 0.36). Given these parameters, and a genetic correlation between heifer and lactating cow RFI of 0.67, inclusion of RFI in the APR index would reduce RFI by 1.76 kg/cow per year. Including RFI in the APR would result in the national Australian Holstein herd consuming 1.73 × 10(6) kg less feed, which is worth 0.55 million Australian dollars (A$) per year and is 3% greater than is currently possible to achieve. Other traits contributing to profitability, such as milk production and fertility, will also improve through selection on this index; for example, ClvI would be reduced by 0.53 d/cow per year, which is 96% of the gain for this trait that is achieved without RFI in the APR.


  • Gonzalez-Recio, O
  • Pryce, J
  • Haile-Mariam, M
  • Hayes, B

publication date

  • 2014