The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of selection for feed utilization on associated blood plasma metabolite and hormone traits. Dry matter intake (DMI) was recorded in 970 Holsteins from 11 commercial farms in Pennsylvania and used to derive dry matter efficiency (DME; fat-corrected milk yield/DMI), crude protein efficiency (CPE; protein yield/crude protein intake), and residual feed intake (RFI, defined as actual feed intake minus expected feed intake for maintenance and milk production, based on calculation of DMI adjusted for yield, body weight, and body condition score). Estimated breeding values for the 4 feed utilization traits (DMI, DME, CPE, and RFI), yield traits, body traits, and days open were standardized according to their respective genetic standard deviations. Up to 631 blood samples from 393 cows from 0 to 60 d in milk (DIM) were evaluated for blood plasma concentrations of glucose, nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), creatinine, urea, growth hormone (GH), 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3), and other parameters. Blood plasma traits were regressed on DIM, lactation number, herd, and standardized genetic merit. Cows with higher genetic merit for yield had significantly higher concentrations of GH, NEFA (milk and protein yield), and BHB (fat yield) from 31 to 60 DIM, but lower concentrations of glucose from 0 to 30 DIM, and T3 (milk yield, 0–60 DIM). The high GH–low glucose–low T3 concentration pattern was further accentuated for cows with genetic merit for enhanced feed efficiency (higher DME and lower RFI). Cows with a genetic tendency to be thin (low body condition score) also had elevated GH concentrations, but lower blood glucose, creatinine, and T3 concentrations. Those characteristics associated with enhanced feed efficiency (higher GH and lower glucose and T3 concentrations) were unfavorably associated with fertility, as indicated by elevated days open. Elevated NEFA and BHB concentrations were also associated with extended days open. Consideration of metabolic profiles when evaluating feed efficiency might be a method of maintaining high levels of health and reproductive fitness when selecting for feed efficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology