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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Growth, Physiology, and Reproduction

CELL BIOLOGY SYMPOSIUM: Genetics of feed efficiency in dairy and beef cattle1

 

This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 4, p. 1594-1613
     
    Received: Sept 15, 2012
    Accepted: Jan 01, 2013
    Published: December 2, 2014


    2 Corresponding author(s): Donagh.berry@teagasc.ie
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doi:10.2527/jas.2012-5862
  1. D. P. Berry 2 and
  2. J. J. Crowley
  1. Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland
    Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2P5, Canada

Abstract

Increasing food production for the growing human population off a constraining land base will require greater efficiency of production. Genetic improvement of feed efficiency in cattle, which is cumulative and permanent, is one likely vehicle to achieving efficiency gains. The objective of this review is to summarize genetic parameters for feed efficiency traits in dairy and beef cattle and also to address some of the misconceptions associated with feed efficiency in these sectors, as well as discuss the potential use of feed efficiency in breeding programs. A meta-analysis of up to 39 scientific publications in growing cattle clearly showed that genetic variation in feed efficiency exists with a pooled heritability for residual feed intake (RFI) and feed conversion efficiency of 0.33 ± 0.01 (range of 0.07 to 0.62) and 0.23 ± 0.01 (range of 0.06 to 0.46), respectively. Heritability estimates for feed efficiency in cows were lower; a meta-analysis of up to 11 estimates revealed heritability estimates for gross feed efficiency and RFI of 0.06 ± 0.010 and 0.04 ± 0.008, respectively. Meta-analysis of genetic correlations between feed intake, feed efficiency and other performance traits are presented, and selection index theory is used to calculate the proportion of genetic variation in feed intake that can be explained by easy to measure, and often already collected, data. A large proportion of the genetic variation in feed intake could be explained in both growing animals and lactating animals using up to 5 predictor traits, including BW, growth rate, milk yield, body composition, and linear type traits reflecting body size and muscularity. Knowledge of genetic merit for feed intake can be used, along with estimates of genetic merit for energy sinks, to calculate genetic merit for feed efficiency. Therefore, the marginal benefit of collecting actual feed intake data, using the genetic parameters used in this study, appears to be low. There is now sufficient information available to develop a road map on how best to direct research to ensure long-term food security for a growing human population. Gaps in knowledge are identified here, and possibilities to address these gaps are discussed.

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Copyright © 2013. American Society of Animal Science