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Agricultural and Resource Economics | Animal Sciences | Animal Studies | Biology | Life Sciences | Other Animal Sciences
The purpose of this study was to define an extensive suite of feeding behavior traits in growing crossbred cattle and to investigate their phenotypic inter-relationships as well as relationships with other performance and efficiency traits. Time-series feeding behavior data, as well as feed intake and liveweight records, were available for 624 growing crossbred cattle, of which 445 were steers and 179 were heifers. Feeding behavior repeatability estimates were calculated using linear mixed models. Additionally, partial Spearman correlations were estimated among 14 feeding behavior traits, as well as between feeding behavior with both performance and feed efficiency traits, using residuals retained from linear mixed models. The marginal contribution of several feeding behavior traits to the variability in metabolizable energy intake (MEI) was also determined. Repeatability estimates of 0.57, 0.36, and 0.48 were calculated for the number of feed events per day, the total time spent feeding per day, and the feeding rate, respectively. Cattle that ate more frequently each day, ate at a faster rate and consumed less energy in each visit to the feed bunk. More efficient cattle fed less often per day and fed for a shorter duration per day; they also had a slower feeding rate and fed for longer in each visit to the feed bunk. Moreover, heavier cattle fed for a longer duration per day had a faster feeding rate, but fed less often per day; heavier animals also fed first in the pen after the fresh feed was offered. The number of feed events per day and feeding time per day together explained an additional 13.4 percentage points of the variability in MEI above that already explained by all of growth rate, liveweight, and backfat depth. The results from the present study suggest that several repeatable time-series-related feeding behavior traits, that are less resource intensive to measure, may have a role as useful predictor traits of important but relatively difficult to record traits, such as feed intake and efficiency.
Kelly, D.N. et al., 2020. Large variability in feeding behavior among crossbred growing cattle. Journal of Animal Science, 98(7). Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jas/skaa216.