Relationships among performance, residual feed intake, and temperament assessed in growing beef heifers and subsequently as 3-year-old, lactating beef cows.
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Seventy-four beef heifers were used to evaluate relationships among performance, residual feed intake (RFI), and temperament measured as growing heifers (Phase 1) and subsequently as 3-yr-old lactating beef cows (Phase 2) in the same cohort. In both phases, females were housed in a covered facility and fed similar forage-based diets, and individual feed intakes, BW, BCS, chute scores (CS), exit velocities (EV), and pen scores (PS) were collected throughout the 70-d feeding trials. In Phase 2, cows were milked on trial d 14 (lactation d 28 3.5) and trial d 70 (lactation d 84 3.5) to determine energy-corrected milk (ECM) production. Ultrasonic backfat thickness (BF), and ribeye area (REA) were evaluated on d 0 and 70 of the trial in Phase 2. Heifers were ranked by RFI and placed into Low (<0.5 SD mean RFI; n = 27), Medium (within 0.5 SD; n = 23), and High (>0.5 SD mean RFI; n = 24) RFI groups. Body weight, BCS, and ADG were similar among all RFI groups; however, daily DMI differed for all groups (P < 0.01) and was greater (10.76 0.24 kg/d) for High, intermediate (9.88 0.25 kg/d) for Medium, and less (8.52 0.23 kg/d) for Low RFI heifers. When cow performance was analyzed based on RFI rank as heifers, BW, BCS, ADG, RFI, d 14 and d 70 ECM, BF, and REA were similar among RFI groups; however, cows that were most efficient as heifers (Low) had decreased (P < 0.05) daily DMI values (10.30 0.41 kg/d) compared with cows that ranked Medium (11.60 0.44 kg/d) or High (11.50 0.43 kg/d) as heifers. The Pearson rank correlation between Phase 1 and 2 RFI was r = 0.13 (P = 0.30), and Pearson rank correlations showed no relationship (P > 0.1) between RFI and temperament. Phase 1 CS was negatively associated with ADG in Phase 1 (r = -0.28; P = 0.02) and 2 (r = -0.32; P = 0.01), and positively associated with d 14 (r = 0.24; P = 0.04) and 70 (r = 0.25; P = 0.03) ECM. Phase 2 CS was negatively associated with Phase 2 ADG (r = -0.29; P = 0.01) and positively associated with d 14 (r = 0.46; P = 0.001) and 70 (r = 0.33; P = 0.004) ECM. Phase 2 PS also tended to be negatively associated with DMI in Phase 1 (r = -0.20; P = 0.096) and 2 (r = -0.20; P = 0.08). In this study, heifers that were most feed efficient subsequently consumed less feed as lactating cows and maintained similar performance. Feed efficiency was not associated with differences in temperament; however, more excitable females had poorer BW gains and tended to have reduced feed intakes but produced more ECM.