Genetic parameters between feed-intake-related traits and conformation in 2 separate dairy populations-the Netherlands and United States

C.I.V. Manzanilla-Pech*, R.F. Veerkamp, R.J. Tempelman, M.L. van Pelt, K.A. Weigel, M. VandeHaar, T.J. Lawlor, D.M. Spurlock, L.E. Armentano, C.R. Staples, M. Hanigan, Y. De Haas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


To include feed-intake-related traits in the breeding goal, accurate estimates of genetic parameters of feed intake, and its correlations with other related traits (i.e., production, conformation) are required to compare different options. However, the correlations between feed intake and conformation traits can vary depending on the population. Therefore, the objective was to estimate genetic correlations between 6 feed-intake-related traits and 7 conformation traits within dairy cattle from 2 countries, the Netherlands (NL) and the United States (US). The feed-intake-related traits were dry matter intake (DMI), residual feed intake (RFI), milk energy output (MilkE), milk yield (MY), body weight (BW), and metabolic body weight (MBW). The conformation traits were stature (ST), chest width (CW), body depth (BD), angularity (ANG), rump angle (RA), rump width (RW), and body condition score (BCS). Feed intake data were available for 1,665 cows in NL and for 1,920 cows in US, from 83 nutritional experiments (48 in NL and 35 in US) conducted between 1991 and 2011 in NL and between 2007 and 2013 in US. Additional conformation records from relatives of the animals with DMI records were added to the database, giving a total of 37,241 cows in NL and 28,809 in US with conformation trait information. Genetic parameters were estimated using bivariate animal model analyses. The model included the following fixed effects for feed-intake-related traits: location by experiment-ration, age of cow at calving modeled with a second order polynomial by parity class, location by year-season, and days in milk, and these fixed effects for the conformation traits: herd by classification date, age of cow at classification, and lactation stage at classification. Both models included additive genetic and residual random effects. The highest estimated genetic correlations involving DMI were with CW in both countries (NL = 0.45 and US = 0.61), followed by ST (NL = 0.33 and US = 0.57), BD (NL = 0.26 and US = 0.49), and BCS (NL = 0.24 and US = 0.46). The MilkE and MY were moderately correlated with ANG in both countries (0.33 and 0.47 in NL, and 0.36 and 0.48 in US). Finally, BW was highly correlated with CW (0.77 in NL and 0.84 in US) and with BCS (0.83 in NL and 0.85 in US). Feed-intake-related traits were moderately to highly genetically correlated with conformation traits (ST, CW, BD, and BCS) in both countries, making them potentially useful as predictors of DMI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-457
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Conformation trait
  • Feed intake
  • Genetic correlation

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