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Agriculture | Animal Sciences | Beef Science | Dairy Science | Life Sciences
Some definitions of feed efficiency such as residual energy intake (REI) and residual gain (RG) may not truly reflect production efficiency. The energy sinks used in the derivation of the traits include metabolic live-weight; producers finishing cattle for slaughter are, however, paid on the basis of carcass weight, as opposed to live-weight. The objective of the present study was to explore alternative definitions of REI and RG which are more reflective of production efficiency, and quantify their relationship with performance, ultrasound, and carcass traits across multiple breeds and sexes of cattle. Feed intake and live-weight records were available on 5,172 growing animals, 2,187 of which also had information relating to carcass traits; all animals were fed a concentrate-based diet representative of a feedlot diet. Animal linear mixed models were used to estimate (co)variance components. Heritability estimates for all derived REI traits varied from 0.36 (REICWF; REI using carcass weight and carcass fat as energy sinks) to 0.50 (traditional REI derived with the energy sinks of both live-weight and ADG). The heritability for the RG traits varied from 0.24 to 0.34. Phenotypic correlations among all definitions of the REI traits ranged from 0.90 (REI with REICWF) to 0.99 (traditional REI with REI using metabolic preslaughter live-weight and ADG). All were different (P < 0.001) from one suggesting reranking of animals when using different definitions of REI to identify efficient cattle. The derived RG traits were either weakly or not correlated (P > 0.05) with the ultrasound and carcass traits. Genetic correlations between the REI traits with carcass weight, dressing difference (i.e., live-weight immediately preslaughter minus carcass weight) and dressing percentage (i.e., carcass weight divided by live-weight immediately preslaughter) implies that selection on any of the REI traits will increase carcass weight, lower the dressing difference and increase dressing percentage. Selection on REICW (REI using carcass weight as an energy sink), as opposed to traditional REI, should increase the carcass weight 2.2 times slower but reduce the dressing difference 4.3 times faster. While traditionally defined REI is informative from a research perspective, the ability to convert energy into live-weight gain does not necessarily equate to carcass gain, and as such, traits such as REICW and REICWF provide a better description of production efficiency for feedlot cattle.
Kelly, D.N. et al., 2019. Feed efficiency and carcass metrics in growing cattle1. Journal of Animal Science, 97(11), pp.4405–4417. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jas/skz316.