Netherlands publishes feed intake breeding value

Breeding value for feed intake shows how much more or less the offspring of sires eat for production and maintenance.

Dairy farmers in the Netherlands can view how feed efficient the offspring of sires are now that the country has published this breeding value.

The increasing world population requires efficient food production systems, especially for the production of animal proteins. The feed efficiency breeding value is a tool to achieve that. Publication of the breeding value is a result of research done by Wageningen University & Research Livestock Research in the Netherlands over the years.

Australia published its "Feed Saved" breeding value in April 2015, and now the Netherlands has become the second country in the world to publish a breeding value for feed intake, which enables selection based on higher feed efficiency, the university said.

The breeding value for feed intake shows how much more or less the offspring of sires eat for their production and maintenance. By using this breeding value for feed intake in relation to the breeding values for milk production and liveweight, it is possible to breed more efficient cows.

Importance for dairy farmers

Dairy farmers themselves benefit from the cows' reduced feed intake as feed costs are the highest variable costs on a farm, and it is expected that feed costs will only rise, whereas milk prices have declined. Selecting more efficient cows helps producers lower costs.

The breeding value for feed intake is hard to determine on its own. A higher-producing cow eats more, but so does a heavier cow. The breeding value for feed intake should always be judged in comparison to the breeding values for milk production, for liveweight or for body condition score.

In 2009, researchers at Wageningen ran a pilot study using existing data to see if there was any merit in estimating a breeding value for feed intake. In the following years, more research on this was done on the Dairy Campus and through international collaborations, with financing of Productschap Zuivel, and now, this unique breeding value has been published.

The Genetic Evaluation Sires group (http://www.gesfokwaarden.eu/index.htm) is responsible for publishing reliable breeding values for sires in the Netherlands and Flanders. Breeding values are estimated and published for production, conformation, longevity, fertility and health traits. There is also a close collaboration with Interbull for publishing the breeding values.

More information on this breeding value is available in Dutch at https://www.verantwoordeveehouderij.nl/show/Nu-naar-echte-fokwaarden-voor-voerefficientie.htm.

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