Select the forage efficient cow and improve the economy

Last changed: 11 January 2018
Curious cow

Forage is the basis for feed rations in Swedish dairy production. However, the ability to consume a lot of forage differs among cows. We want to study if there is genetic variation in forage intake ability.

There are many factors affect a cow’s ability to eat a lot of forage, e.g., age, live weight, lactation stage, amount of concentrate fed, and forage quality. However, these factors only explain part of the variation. We studied cows in early lactation that received a limited amount of concentrate and ranked them on their ability to eat forage. Cows in the lowest quarter ate on about half the amount of silage that cows in the top quarter could eat. This would correspond to about 15 kg energy-corrected milk.

If we can find the genetic background to forage intake capacity and create genomic breeding values for this trait, we could select for cows that are better at producing milk on forage. This would not only improve farm economy but also lead to that less amount of grain and concentrates would be needed in Swedish dairy production.


The project is financed from SLF and Formas. Kjell Holtenius, department of Animal Nutrition and Management is responsible for the whole project. Erling Strandberg and Getinet Mekuriaw are responsible for the genetic part of the project.