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Effect of diet energy level and genomic residual feed intake on bred Holstein dairy heifer growth and feed efficiency

Coblentz Wayne K., K.T. Williams, K.A. Weigel, W.K. Coblentz, N.M. Esser, H. Schlesser, P.C. Hoffman, R. Ogden, H. Su, M.S. Akins
Journal of dairy science 2022 v.105 no.3 pp. 2201-2214
Holstein, alfalfa, corn silage, cows, crude protein, dairy science, diet, dry matter intake, energy, energy density, feed conversion, genomics, haylage, neutral detergent fiber, straw
The objective of this study was to determine growth, feed intake, and feed efficiency of postbred dairy heifers with different genomic residual feed intake (RFI) predicted as a lactating cow when offered diets differing in energy density. Postbred Holstein heifers (n = 128, ages 14–20 mo) were blocked by initial weight (high, medium-high, medium-low, and low) with 32 heifers per block. Each weight block was sorted by RFI (high or low) to obtain 2 pens of heifers with high and low genomically predicted RFI within each block (8 heifers per pen). Low RFI heifers were expected to have greater feed efficiency than high RFI heifers. Dietary treatments consisted of a higher energy control diet based on corn silage and alfalfa haylage [HE; 62.7% total digestible nutrients, 11.8% crude protein, and 45.6% neutral detergent fiber; dry matter (DM) basis], and a lower energy diet diluted with straw (LE; 57.0% total digestible nutrients, 11.7% crude protein, and 50.1% neutral detergent fiber; DM basis). Each pen within a block was randomly allocated a diet treatment to obtain a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement (2 RFI levels and 2 dietary energy levels). Diets were offered in a 120-d trial. Dry matter intake by heifers was affected by diet (11.0 vs. 10.0 kg/d for HE and LE, respectively) but not by RFI or the interaction of RFI and diet. Daily gain was affected by the interaction of RFI and diet, with low RFI heifers gaining more than high RFI heifers when fed LE (0.94 vs. 0.85 kg/d for low and high RFI, respectively), but no difference for RFI groups when fed HE (1.16 vs. 1.19 kg/d for low and high RFI, respectively). Respective feed efficiencies were improved for low RFI compared with high RFI heifers when fed LE (10.6 vs. 11.8 kg of feed DM/kg of gain), but no effect of RFI was found when fed HE (9.4 vs. 9.5 kg of DM/kg of gain for high and low RFI, respectively). No effect of RFI or diet on first-lactation performance through 150 DIM was observed. Based on these results, the feed efficiency of heifers having different genomic RFI may be dependent on diet energy level, whereby low RFI heifers utilized the LE diet more efficiently. The higher fiber straw (LE) diet controlled intake and maintained more desirable heifer weight gains. This suggests that selection for improved RFI in lactating cows may improve feed efficiency in growing heifers when fed to meet growth goals of 0.9 to 1.0 kg of gain/d.