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Disentangling the relative roles of resource acquisition and allocation on animal feed efficiency: insights from a dairy cow model

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ABSTRACT

Background: Feed efficiency of farm animals has greatly improved through genetic selection for production. Today, we are faced with the limits of our ability to predict the effect of selection on feed efficiency, partly because the relative importance of the components of this complex phenotype changes across environments. Thus, we developed a dairy cow model that incorporates the dynamic interplay between life functions and evaluated its behaviour with a global sensitivity analysis on two definitions of feed efficiency. A key model feature is to consider feed efficiency as the result of two processes, acquisition and allocation of resources. Acquisition encapsulates intake and digestion, and allocation encapsulates partitioning rules between physiological functions. The model generates genetically-driven trajectories of energy acquisition and allocation, with four genetic-scaling parameters controlling these processes. Model sensitivity to these parameters was assessed with a complete factorial design.

Results: Acquisition and allocation had contrasting effects on feed efficiency (ratio between energy in milk and energy acquired from the environment). When measured over a lactation period, feed efficiency was increased by increasing allocation to lactation. However, at the lifetime level, efficiency was increased by decreasing allocation to growth and increasing lactation acquisition. While there is a strong linear increase in feed efficiency with more allocation to lactation within a lactation cycle, our results suggest that there is an optimal level of allocation to lactation beyond which increasing allocation to lactation negatively affects lifetime feed efficiency.

Conclusions: We developed a model to predict lactation and lifetime feed efficiency and show that breaking-down feed conversion into acquisition and allocation, and introducing genetically-driven trajectories that control these mechanisms, permitted quantification of their relative roles on feed efficiency. The life stage at which feed efficiency is evaluated appears to be a key aspect for selection. In this model, body reserves are also a key component in the prediction of lifetime feed efficiency since they integrate the feedback of acquisition and allocation on survival and reproduction. This modelling approach provided new insights into the processes that underpin lifetime feed efficiency in dairy cows.

Electronic supplementary material: The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12711-016-0251-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

No MeSH data available.


Dynamic changes in the allocation sub-model over two reproductive cycles of a dairy cow. AllocG, allocation to growth; AllocPf, allocation to future progeny; AllocPc, allocation to current progeny; AllocS, allocation to survival
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Fig2: Dynamic changes in the allocation sub-model over two reproductive cycles of a dairy cow. AllocG, allocation to growth; AllocPf, allocation to future progeny; AllocPc, allocation to current progeny; AllocS, allocation to survival

Mentions: The allocation sub-model is the core of the model and drives the partitioning of ME between physiological functions. It accounts for changes in priorities during the lifespan of the animal by generating genetically-driven dynamic changes in coefficients of partition among four life functions: growth, future progeny, current progeny and survival. As proposed by [14], genetically-driven changes refer to any change that occurs in cows kept in a non-constraining environment. Dynamic changes of these compartments are illustrated in Fig. 2.Fig. 2


Disentangling the relative roles of resource acquisition and allocation on animal feed efficiency: insights from a dairy cow model
Dynamic changes in the allocation sub-model over two reproductive cycles of a dairy cow. AllocG, allocation to growth; AllocPf, allocation to future progeny; AllocPc, allocation to current progeny; AllocS, allocation to survival
© Copyright Policy - OpenAccess
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5037647&req=5

Fig2: Dynamic changes in the allocation sub-model over two reproductive cycles of a dairy cow. AllocG, allocation to growth; AllocPf, allocation to future progeny; AllocPc, allocation to current progeny; AllocS, allocation to survival
Mentions: The allocation sub-model is the core of the model and drives the partitioning of ME between physiological functions. It accounts for changes in priorities during the lifespan of the animal by generating genetically-driven dynamic changes in coefficients of partition among four life functions: growth, future progeny, current progeny and survival. As proposed by [14], genetically-driven changes refer to any change that occurs in cows kept in a non-constraining environment. Dynamic changes of these compartments are illustrated in Fig. 2.Fig. 2

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Background: Feed efficiency of farm animals has greatly improved through genetic selection for production. Today, we are faced with the limits of our ability to predict the effect of selection on feed efficiency, partly because the relative importance of the components of this complex phenotype changes across environments. Thus, we developed a dairy cow model that incorporates the dynamic interplay between life functions and evaluated its behaviour with a global sensitivity analysis on two definitions of feed efficiency. A key model feature is to consider feed efficiency as the result of two processes, acquisition and allocation of resources. Acquisition encapsulates intake and digestion, and allocation encapsulates partitioning rules between physiological functions. The model generates genetically-driven trajectories of energy acquisition and allocation, with four genetic-scaling parameters controlling these processes. Model sensitivity to these parameters was assessed with a complete factorial design.

Results: Acquisition and allocation had contrasting effects on feed efficiency (ratio between energy in milk and energy acquired from the environment). When measured over a lactation period, feed efficiency was increased by increasing allocation to lactation. However, at the lifetime level, efficiency was increased by decreasing allocation to growth and increasing lactation acquisition. While there is a strong linear increase in feed efficiency with more allocation to lactation within a lactation cycle, our results suggest that there is an optimal level of allocation to lactation beyond which increasing allocation to lactation negatively affects lifetime feed efficiency.

Conclusions: We developed a model to predict lactation and lifetime feed efficiency and show that breaking-down feed conversion into acquisition and allocation, and introducing genetically-driven trajectories that control these mechanisms, permitted quantification of their relative roles on feed efficiency. The life stage at which feed efficiency is evaluated appears to be a key aspect for selection. In this model, body reserves are also a key component in the prediction of lifetime feed efficiency since they integrate the feedback of acquisition and allocation on survival and reproduction. This modelling approach provided new insights into the processes that underpin lifetime feed efficiency in dairy cows.

Electronic supplementary material: The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12711-016-0251-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

No MeSH data available.