Exploring Genetic Improvement for Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle Print
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Amanda Heitz   
Monday, 12 November 2012 13:26
As the world population continues to grow, and there is increasing demand for crop production acres to raise food and fuel, efficiency in the cattle industry is becoming ever more important. Feed efficiency, or the amount of body weight gain from a pound of feed, is key to feedlot performance and profitability. Global food security is dependent on increased production from fewer inputs.

Efficient use of feed is even more important as the cost of feed and other inputs continues to increase. Feed costs have historically been 50-70 percent of the cost of production in beef enterprises, and as corn prices exceed $7 per bushel feed costs are nearly 80 percent of the cost in many feedlot operations. A feed efficiency improvement of approximately 10 percent across
the entire feedlot sector would reduce feed costs $1.2 billion.

Feed efficiency is often thought of as a feedlot attribute. But the cow-calf segment consumes about 70 percent of the calories in beef production, and of those more than half are used for maintenance. Unfortunately feed efficiency and feed intake is difficult to measure on large numbers of cattle, so improvements have been slow in coming.

The genetic improvement of feed efficiency in beef cattle is the focus of a large USDA funded integrated research and extension project. It will leverage a variety of methods to achieve the goal of feed efficiency. The five year, USDA-AFRI funded project titled “National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle” (www.beefefficiency.org) is to sustainably reduce feed resources required to produce beef. The project will rapidly develop and deploy novel nutritional, genomic and genetic improvement technologies.

Stronger international competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, increased food production through increased animal protein production without additional feed inputs, and reduced greenhouse gas footprint are goals of project participants. The project will gather existing individual feed intake and composition records across the major U.S. beef breeds and back fill deficiencies in these represented breeds through collection of new records.

This project will be featured at the upcoming Driftless Region Beef conference Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2013, in Dubuque, Iowa. Three of the speakers are involved in the feed efficiency project including Dan Shike University of Illinois; Matt Spangler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Dan Loy, Iowa State University.

The conference will begin at 1 p.m. on Jan. 31 and run till 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 1. Thursday’s afternoon program will focus on feed efficiency at all stages of production, with an evening discussion focused on straight versus crossbreeding. Friday morning’s program includes three breakout sessions for feedlot operations and three for cow herds.

Registration for the conference is $80 before Jan. 15 or $100 after Jan. 15. Additional information about the conference is available at www.aep.iastate.edu/beef . Registration will open for the conference on Dec. 1.

The Driftless Region Beef Conference is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the University of Minnesota Extension, and University of Wisconsin Extension. The planning team strives to deliver the latest in research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information or to receive a brochure, contact Denise Schwab at 319-721-9624.

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