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News 263 views last update:6 Aug 2012

US beef industry focuses on feed efficiency

Also the beef industry is focusing on higher feed efficiency, as feed prices are getting too expensive, according to a news item on cattlenetwork.com.

Feed storage, processing, additives and delivery that minimize waste and maximize utilization are critical to improving efficiency, according to John Dhuyvetter, area livestock specialist at North Dakota State University's North Central Research Extension Center in Minot. He believes that large economic impacts also might be possible through genetic improvements that make cattle more metabolically efficient in their use of feed. This means, selecting cattle that eat less while gaining the same.

This technology includes feed bunks with load-cell scales that continually weigh a feed tub accessed by one animal at a time. The tub has a reader to identify the animal by radio frequency ear tag and computerize the data accumulation to track what an individual animal eats while in the pen on the feeding trial.

Residual feed intake
Using the feed intake information to calculate a residual feed intake (RFI) identifies metabolic efficiency differences among animals independently of average daily gain and body size. RFI is defined as the difference between what an animal actually consumed and what was expected based on its growth and maintenance. "This information can be utilized in the selection of bulls expected to sire calves with lower finishing feed costs and daughters with lower feed maintenance requirements," Dhuyvetter says.

Investing in equipment
A number of bull testing and marketing centers, including a couple of the largest test centers in the U.S. and Canada, have invested in the equipment to be able to measure RFI and evaluate bulls for feed efficiency. Additionally, several large seedstock breeders are measuring RFI on some of their best breeding prospects, and more and more land-grant universities are becoming set up to measure individual efficiency in larger groups of animals, which will contribute to more meaningful research.

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