More Income, Less Feed A Better Bottom Line is a Breeding Away with FeedPRO® sires. High feed prices and lower milk prices have created a renewed interest in selecting for improved feed efficiency. Unfortunately, directly measuring and selecting for feed efficiency is not practical because of the expense to measure individual cow feed intakes. However, our current genetic evaluations measure a large variety of traits, so Select Sires took another look at feed efficiency to see if we could identify some key indicator traits among those that we currently evaluate.
The Science Behind FeedPRO – 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, 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 has built an index that identifies sires whose daughters offer the most income over feed cost. 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 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This tool was used to estimate income over feed costs for the various trial indexes. Through this exercise, Select Sires 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 used these tools to identify the combination of traits that maximized income over feed costs.
Comparison of FeedPRO to other Indexes – You may be asking 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 TPITM. This means that FeedPRO is aggressively selecting for increased production, but still identifies a noticeably different group of bulls. FeedPRO sires have the ability to produce a higher producing, moderate-sized animal that will provide you with greater income over feed cost!