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J Anim Sci. 2006 Jan;84(1):145-53.

Relationships of feedlot feed efficiency, performance, and feeding behavior with metabolic rate, methane production, and energy partitioning in beef cattle.

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  • 1Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2P5, Canada.


Residual feed intake (RFI) is the difference between the actual and expected feed intake of an animal based on its BW and growth rate over a specified period. The biological mechanisms underlying the variation in feed efficiency in animals with similar BW and growth rate are not well understood. This study determined the relationship of feedlot feed efficiency, performance, and feeding behavior with digestion and energy partitioning of 27 steers. The steers were selected from a total of 306 animals based on their RFI following feedlot tests at the University of Alberta Kinsella Research Station. Selected steers were ranked into high RFI (RFI > 0.5 SD above the mean, n = 11), medium RFI (RFI +/- 0.5 SD above and below the mean, n = 8), and low RFI (RFI < -0.5 SD below the mean, n = 8). The respective BW +/- SD for the RFI groups were 495.6 +/- 12.7, 529.1 +/- 18.6, and 501.2 +/- 15.5 kg. Digestibility and calorimetry trials were performed on a corn-or barley-based concentrate diet in yr 1 and 2, respectively, at 2.5 x maintenance requirements. Mean DMI (g/kg of BW(0.75)) during the measurements for high-, medium-, and low-RFI groups, respectively, were 82.7 +/- 2.0, 78.8 +/- 2.6, and 81.8 +/- 2.5 and did not differ (P > 0.10). Residual feed intake was correlated with daily methane production and energy lost as methane (r = 0.44; P < 0.05). Methane production was 28 and 24% less in low-RFI animals compared with high- and medium-RFI animals, respectively. Residual feed intake tended to be associated (P < 0.10) with apparent digestibilities of DM (r = -0.33) and CP (r = -0.34). The RFI of steers was correlated with DE (r = -0.41; P < 0.05), ME (r = -0.44; P < 0.05), heat production (HP; r = 0.68; P < 0.001), and retained energy (RE; r = -0.67; P < 0.001; energy values are expressed in kcal/kg of BW(0.75)). Feedlot partial efficiency of growth was correlated (P < 0.01) with methane production (r = -0.55), DE (r = 0.46), ME (r = 0.49), HP (r = -0.50), and RE (r = 0.62). With the exception of HP (r = 0.37; P < 0.05), feed conversion ratio was unrelated to the traits considered in the study. Feeding duration was correlated (P < 0.01) with apparent digestibility of DM (r = -0.55), CP (r = -0.47), methane production (r = 0.51), DE (r = -0.52), ME (r = -0.55), and RE (r = -0.60). These results have practical implications for the selection of animals that eat less at a similar BW and growth rate and for the environmental sustainability of beef production.

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