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The potential of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy of milk samples to predict energy intake and efficiency in dairy cows1

McParland, S., Berry, D.P.
Journal of dairy science 2016 v.99 no.5 pp. 4056-4070
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, animal breeding, dairy cows, data collection, decision support systems, electromagnetic radiation, energy intake, equations, feed conversion, feed intake, genetic merit, genetic variation, herds, infrastructure, lactation, milk, milk fatty acids, milk quality, phenotype, physiological state, prediction, production technology, Ireland, United Kingdom
Knowledge of animal-level and herd-level energy intake, energy balance, and feed efficiency affect day-to-day herd management strategies; information on these traits at an individual animal level is also useful in animal breeding programs. A paucity of data (especially at the individual cow level), of feed intake in particular, hinders the inclusion of such attributes in herd management decision-support tools and breeding programs. Dairy producers have access to an individual cow milk sample at least once daily during lactation, and consequently any low-cost phenotyping strategy should consider exploiting measureable properties in this biological sample, reflecting the physiological status and performance of the cow. Infrared spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of an electromagnetic wave with matter and it is used globally to predict milk quality parameters on routinely acquired individual cow milk samples and bulk tank samples. Thus, exploiting infrared spectroscopy in next-generation phenotyping will ensure potentially rapid application globally with a negligible additional implementation cost as the infrastructure already exists. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIRS) analysis is already used to predict milk fat and protein concentrations, the ratio of which has been proposed as an indicator of energy balance. Milk FTIRS is also able to predict the concentration of various fatty acids in milk, the composition of which is known to change when body tissue is mobilized; that is, when the cow is in negative energy balance. Energy balance is mathematically very similar to residual energy intake (REI), a suggested measure of feed efficiency. Therefore, the prediction of energy intake, energy balance, and feed efficiency (i.e., REI) from milk FTIRS seems logical. In fact, the accuracy of predicting (i.e., correlation between predicted and actual values; root mean square error in parentheses) energy intake, energy balance, and REI from milk FTIRS in dairy cows was 0.88 (20.0MJ), 0.78 (18.6MJ), and 0.63 (22.0MJ), respectively, based on cross-validation. These studies, however, are limited to results from one research group based on data from 2 contrasting production systems in the United Kingdom and Ireland and would need to be replicated, especially in a range of production systems because the prediction equations are not accurate when the variability used in validation is not represented in the calibration data set. Heritable genetic variation exists for all predicted traits. Phenotypic differences in energy intake also exists among animals stratified based on genetic merit for energy intake predicted from milk FTIRS, substantiating the usefulness of such FTIR-predicted phenotypes not only for day-to-day herd management, but also as part of a breeding strategy to improve cow performance.