Integrated Approach to Enhance Efficiency of Feed Utilization in Beef Production Systems
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There is now considerable evidence that genetic variation exists in growing beef cattle for feed intake unaccounted for by differences in weight and growth rate, defined as residual feed intake (RFI), thereby providing opportunities to improve profitability of beef production systems through reductions in feed inputs, with minimal influences on growth or mature size. The expense of measuring feed intake has limited implementation of selection programs that target this trait. This project seeks to develop technologies to improve the genetic merit of beef cattle for feed efficiency in order to reduce production costs, mitigate environmental effects of beef production systems, and improve the competitive position of beef producers. Residual feed intake is a trait that reflects inherent inter-animal variation in biologically relevant processes that are related to feed efficiency like nutrient digestibility. These studies seek to better understand the biological basis for genetic variation in RFI, and to determine if post-weaning RFI is associated with efficiency of feed ultization in pregnant females.