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12 Aug 2019

Saved Feed index released in the Nordics

With the new breeding values in August 2019, NAV (Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluation) releases the first part of the Saved Feed index. The Saved Feed index will in the future include two separate breeding values for maintenance efficiency and metabolic efficiency. Many countries and cattle breeding companies have already developed breeding values for feed efficiency, but many of them are struggling with low reliability due to lack of sufficient data.


The Saved feed index will consist of two breeding values; maintenance efficiency, which captures the energy requirement for maintenance, and metabolic efficiency, which reflects how well the eaten feed is utilized. The breeding value for metabolic efficiency is expected to be launched later.

Lower feed costs with smaller cows

From an economical point of view, indices measuring feed efficiency are needed in dairy farming, because 88% of the variable costs on a dairy farm relates to feed costs. It is a fact that bigger cows eat more to maintain themselves than smaller cows. This also means that from a feed efficiency point of view, smaller cows use less feed for maintenance. The breeding value for maintenance efficiency is based on different measures of live weight and size together with conformation breeding values. Sufficient data and high heritability mean high reliability for this breeding value.


For maintenance efficiency, daughters of two bulls having a difference of 20 index units will have a difference in dry matter intake of 60-80 kg per lactation.

Metabolic efficiency is the next step

Maintenance efficiency doesn’t tell anything about how efficiently the individual cow utilizes the feed she eats. To be able to build a reliable index on this, a lot of information is needed of individual feed intake on a large scale. VikingGenetics has developed the Cattle Feed Intake System (CFIT) where individual cows’ feed intake can be monitored by cameras in barns. Before there is enough data solely from CFIT research, the metabolic index will be based on available CFIT data and feed intake data from research farms in the Nordic countries together with data from around Europe and North America.


Sustainable future as a goal

The genetic trend for cattle around the world has been towards cows becoming larger and heavier due to emphasis on production capability. Now, the world is going through a massive change in people’s attitudes towards sustainable food production. The climate change is on consumers’ minds and is affecting their choices. This means that the dairy farming industry needs to come up with solutions for making dairy farming sustainable and more ecological. VikingGenetics has been breeding for healthy, medium-sized cows for decades and now we will be able to breed for more feed-efficient cows too. We are accepting the challenge of sustainability and we are answering the demands of the modern dairy business by providing the best cows for today, and for the future.