Beef feed efficiency project aims to improve farm profits

A new four year feed efficiency project could help beef farmers up profitability by enabling selection of cattle that will eat less without compromising performance.

The Defra and AHDB-funded project is looking at the ability to measure and select cattle for feed intake on commercial farms, explained Mary Vickers from AHDB Beef and Lamb.

“Professor Bob Weaver from University of Kansas State says during the growing and finisher stage, a 1% improvement in feed efficiency has the same economic impact as a 3% increase in rate of gain,” she said.

See also: Focus on traits for best beef returns

Global and UK trials have already shown differences between individual animals, with UK work on the Stabiliser breed demonstrating a 0.8kg difference in intakes between the top, middle and bottom third for net feed efficiency (NFE).

NFE is a measure of how intakes vary from what’s predicted based on rate of gain and bodyweight. The lower the figure the better.

“A trial looking at 78 Stabiliser bulls over a 12 week testing period found the low third for NFE cost £24 less to feed than the high NFE bulls, consumed 17% less feed and had 13% better FCR,” said Dr Vickers.

The AHDB project will work with several partners including SRUC and start by looking at the Limousin breed.

Currently, 500 cattle are being assessed for feed efficiency.

The project is also looking for two commercial farms to get involved with recording feed intakes.

“SRUC will then crunch the numbers to design an [estimated breeding value] EBV, determine breeding goals and estimate the impact on the industry,” said Dr Vickers.

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