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J Anim Sci. 2014 May;92(5):2170-81. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-7438. Epub 2014 Mar 18.

Feeding behavior, ruminal fermentation, and performance of pregnant beef cows differing in phenotypic residual feed intake offered grass silage.

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Livestock Systems Research Department, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath, Ireland.


This study examined the relationship of residual feed intake (RFI) and performance with feeding behavior and ruminal fermentation variables in pregnant beef cows offered a grass silage diet. Individual grass silage DMI (dry matter digestibility = 666 g/kg) was recorded on 47 gestating (mean gestation d 166, SD = 26 d) Simmental and Simmental × Holstein-Friesian beef cows for a period of 80 d. Cow BW, BCS, skeletal measurements, ultrasonically scanned muscle and fat depth, visual muscular score, ruminal fermentation, blood metabolites, and feeding behavior were measured. Phenotypic RFI was calculated as actual DMI minus expected DMI. Expected DMI was computed for each animal by regressing DMI on conceptus-adjusted mean BW(0.75) and ADG over an 80-d period. Within breed, cows were ranked by RFI into low (efficient), medium, or high groups. Overall mean (SD) values for DMI (kg/d), RFI, initial conceptus-adjusted BW, and conceptus-adjusted ADG were 8.41 (1.09) kg/d, 0.01 (0.13) kg/d, 646 (70) kg, and -0.07 (0.32) kg, respectively. High-RFI cows ate 25% and 8% more than low- and medium-RFI cows, respectively. Live weight and ADG were not correlated (P > 0.05), and DMI was positively correlated (r = 0.80; P < 0.001) with RFI. The low- and high-RFI groups had similar (P > 0.05) BW, ADG, BCS, visual muscular scores, skeletal measurements, blood metabolites, calf birth weight, and calving difficulty scores. All ultrasonic fat and muscle depth measurements were similar (P > 0.05) for low- and high-RFI cows except for back fat thickness change, where low-RFI cows gained less fat (P < 0.05) than high-RFI cows. Low-RFI cows had greater pH and lower ammonia concentrations in ruminal fluid compared to their high-RFI contemporaries. Low-RFI cows had fewer (P < 0.001) daily feeding events, but these were of longer (P < 0.001) duration (min·feed event(-1)·d(-1)). Despite this, total daily duration of feeding was shorter (P < 0.001; min/d) for low- compared to high-RFI cows. High-RFI cows had more and a longer total duration of nonfeeding events (P < 0.001) than low-RFI cows. This study showed that compared to cows with high RFI, those with low RFI consumed less feed for similar levels of productivity, spent less time engaged in feeding-behavior-related activities, and differed in ruminal fermentation parameters. Feeding events are a significant (17%) contributory factor to variation in RFI in pregnant beef cows offered grass silage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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