More Income, Less FeedA Better Bottom Line is a Breeding Away - Current high feed prices have generated greater interest in selecting for feed efficiency. In 2009, Select Sires' genetics staff took a closer look at the large variety of traits measured by current USDA genetic evaluations to see if they could identify some key indicator traits for producing greater income over feed costs. After an extensive review of available research, Select Sires introduced FeedPRO as a sire selection tool for the dairy producer concerned about feed costs and wants to improve overall profitability. The index identifies the top 20 percent of Select Sires' lineup that transmit the traits consistent with more income from less feed, sires that maximize production while moderating size and improving long-term fitness and productivity. The research behind FeedPRO confirms that it works.
The Science Behind FeedPRO - Research literature provides some useful information that was mostly ignored in times of low feed prices. Researchers in the U.K. have done studies of body traits, body condition score and feed intake. They developed an index that combines milk, fat and protein yield with stature, chest width, body depth and rump width. The index they developed had a 90 percent correlation with feed intake.1 Additional research articles have confirmed the relationship between body size and feed intake. Unfortunately, this research does not allow us to identify cows that more efficiently digest the feed they consume. But it is very exciting to know that we can identify the majority of feed intake differences in our dairy cows using traits we already measure.
Building the FeedPRO Index - Based on these research articles, as well as others, Select Sires set out to build an index that identifies sires whose daughters are most feed efficient. A variety of trait combinations were considered for the FeedPRO index. These indexes were then tested by applying them to the active A.I. list and selecting the top bulls. Averages of the selected bulls were then entered into an income over feed supplement cost calculator developed by Cabrera, Shaver and Wattiaux at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This tool was used to estimate income over feed costs for the various trial indexes. Through this exercise, our genetics staff learned that selecting for a balance of production body size and other traits was more cost effective than simply selecting for more production. Select Sires then used these tools to identify the combination of traits that maximized income over feed costs.
In a final step to authenticate the FeedPRO index, Select Sires sought third-party reviews from leading scientists and researchers in the fields of genetics and nutrition for their support. Dr. Maurice Eastridge of The Ohio State University had this to say, "I have reviewed the science behind FeedPRO and find its application and philosophy to be very much in line with the message of overall economic efficiency that The Ohio State University relays in Extension programming. I support Select Sires in this endeavor and believe the philosophy of FeedPRO is sound in improving income over feed cost."
"Feed efficiency is a critical issue to dairy farm profitability, and we are currently researching methods of selecting for more efficient cows," says Dr. Chad Dechow, dairy genetics research scientist. "Though we have much to learn, I find Select's application of this science to be sound and useful for today's dairy producers. In my review of FeedPRO, I found that daughters of FeedPRO sires have an advantage, on average, of 13 to 18 cents per day in income over feed cost when compared to the active A.I. average. I salute Select Sires for their efforts in helping producers put more emphasis on moderate-sized cows while maintaining production."
Comparison of FeedPRO to other Indexes - Let's take a look at how the FeedPRO index compares with other selection indexes that are currently available within the industry. As Table 1 shows, the correlation of FeedPRO is moderately high with production traits, Net Merit and TPISM. This means that FeedPRO is aggressively selecting for increased production, but still identifies a noticeably different group of bulls.
|Table 1. Correlation of FeedPRO and Other Indexes|
1 R.F. Veerkamp 1998 J Dairy Sci 81:1109-1119. Selection for Economic Efficiency of Dairy Cattle Using Information on Live Weight and Feed Intake: A Review
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