More beef from less feed

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   More beef from less feed
The Cooperative Research Centre
for Beef Genetics Technologies (Beef
CRC) has commenced two MLA-
funded projects to study the genes
responsible for feed efficiency and
carcase traits, and their effect on
maternal productivity.
The Beef CRC program manager,
Dr Wayne Pitchford, explained that
Project 2.1 – Feed efficiency gene
discovery and gene expression – is
about honing in on the genes for net
feed intake (NFI) and developing a
commercial gene marker test.
                                               Angus cattle at Vasse, WA that will be used in the net feed intake trials.
Net feed intake has been adopted by
the Australian beef industry for the           improved feed efficiency (that is,          Within six years the projects expect to
purpose of genetic improvement in              with a lower NFI) will demonstrate          have gene markers commercialised and
feed efficiency. It is the amount of feed      increased productivity from pastures        for the researchers to have a sufficient
eaten net of expected requirements             in a range of production systems in         understanding of the effect of these
for maintenance and growth, with the           southern Australia.                         gene markers to be able to make sound
more efficient cattle being those that                                                     recommendations to farmers on
eat less than expected.                        The project will determine per head
                                                                                           selecting to improve beef productivity.
                                               and per hectare productivity by high
It is already known that within groups         NFI (low efficiency) and low NFI (high      “We also hope to develop some
of cattle that have been tested for NFI        efficiency) cows and calves at two          models to determine the impact of
there can be a variation in feed intake        stocking rates (high and low) and two       selecting animals for improved meat
of nearly 100% for the same weight gain.       geographic sites – at Straun, South         quality and body composition of
                                               Australia on a Techno Graze system          young animals on the productivity of
“Net feed intake is a difficult and
                                               and at Vasse, Western Australia on an       the whole herd,” Dr Pitchford added.
expensive trait to measure, so it’s
                                               intensive rotational grazing system.
an ideal candidate for using gene                                                          In terms of technology transfer,
markers to improve our selection,” Dr          A parallel evaluation to study cattle       the Beef CRC researchers will be
Pitchford said.                                high in marbling (fat) and high in          working with farmer groups that
                                               retail beef yield (lean) will determine     are part of the MLA More Beef from
Current feed intake tests to
                                               the genetic associations between            Pastures program.
determine NFI are prohibitive for
                                               these important carcase attributes and
many bull producers, as they require                                                       “We really see this Beef CRC program
                                               measures of cow productivity.
an automated feeding system and                                                            as value adding MLA’s More Beef from
additional feed and labour.                    “Both sites are reasonably well             Pastures program. We are working as
                                               representative of southern Australian       partners,” Dr Pitchford said.
“It can cost up to $400-500 per animal
                                               cattle regions.
to have a feed intake test done. The
current IGF1 test from PrimeGro is good,       “It is likely that we will be using             More inforMation
but it’d be better if we could also have       Angus cattle for all genotype groups            Wayne Pitchford
gene marker tests. Then we could               because we have more information on             Program 2 Manager
evaluate more animals and speed                those animals already. The aim is to
                                                                                               Phone: 08 8303 7642
genetic progress,” Dr Pitchford said.          look at the effect of selection on
                                               productivity, not to compare breeds,”           Email: wayne.pitchford@adelaide.
Gene or DNA markers are used to                                                             
                                               Dr Pitchford explained.
detect different forms of genes, and
gene marker test information can be            Previous research in pigs and cattle
used in estimated breeding values              suggests that selecting for low NFI             Robert Herd
(EBVs) to predict the breeding                 results in slightly leaner animals.             Project 2.1 Strategy Leader
performance of animals with respect                                                            Phone: 02 6770 1808
to specific traits. The tests are              “Having leaner cows might increase
performed on tissues such as blood or          the post-partum anoestrous period               Email:
tail hair follicles that can be collected by   (the period from calving to first heat).        OR
producers and sent away for testing.           As part of the maternal productivity
                                                                                               John Graham
                                               trial we want to look at effects of body
Project 2.2 – Genetic improvement of           composition directly on productivity            Project 2.2 Strategy Leader
breeding herd efficiency in variable           when different nutritional regimes are          Phone: 03 5573 0908
temperate environments – will                  imposed,” he said.                              Email:
test whether selecting animals for

                                                                                           	                 feedback	–	Jan/ Feb	2006	   

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