Feed conversion efficiency is an important factor affecting profitability for cow-calf production systems. One method of characterising feed conversion efficiency is by calculating residual feed intake (RFI), the difference between measured and expected feed intakes. A high RFI value indicates low feed efficiency while a low RFI value indicates high feed efficiency. The present experiment used 49 Angus heifers sired by Angus bulls selected for high or low RFI. The progeny were bred on commercial farms and then transferred to Massey University at weaning at ~200 days of age. The heifers were weighed at ~30-day intervals and were mated at 15 months, calved at 2 years old and reared their calf to ~160 days of age. Each heifer had recorded its own liveweight gain (from its weaning to weaning of its first calf), herbage intake at 350 and 450 days of age using the n-alkane technique and maternal performance (calf production). These records were analysed to estimate the RFI of each heifer, and to determine differences in RFI between selection lines. There were no significant differences (P > 0.05) in liveweight or dry matter requirements between selection lines at Day 350, but differences were significant (P < 0.05) at Day 450 such that the high feed efficiency line were 24.6 kg heavier and required an extra 0.32 kg/head.day of herbage. There were no significant differences (P > 0.05) between the two lines in herbage intake or RFI measured at either Days 350 or 450. There were no differences (P > 0.05) in pregnancy rates, calf birth dates or birthweights, estimated 24-h milk production or calf weaning weights between the two lines. This experiment shows that beef cattle selected for low RFI have higher growth rates and heavier liveweights than cattle selected for high RFI; both lines had similar calf production at first breeding.
Animal Production Science – CSIRO Publishing
Published: Jul 17, 2014
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