Estimates of variance components for postweaning feed intake and growth in Bonsmara bulls and evaluation of alternative measures of feed efficiency
Feed efficiency is of major economic importance in beef production. The objective of this work was to evaluate alternative measures of feed efficiency for use in genetic evaluation. To meet this objective, genetic parameters were estimated for the components of efficiency. These parameters were then used in multiple-trait animal model genetic evaluations and alternative genetic predictors of feed efficiency were derived from the results. Corresponding single-trait evaluations for residual feed intake (RFI), residual daily gain (RDG), and residual intake and gain (RIG) were also conducted. The data contained 3 331 animals with records and an additional 6 322 animals in their pedigree. The alternative measures of feed efficiency were compared using Spearman rank correlations. Heritability estimates for metabolic body weight (MBW), average daily gain (ADG) and average daily feed intake (DFI) were 0.38 ± 0.05, 0.25 ± 0.05 and 0.37 ± 0.05, respectively. Estimates of the genetic correlations among these traits were 0.79 ± 0.07, 0.54 ± 0.08 and 0.66 ± 0.08 for MBW with ADG, MBW with DFI, and ADG with DFI, respectively. The various measures of feed efficiency were highly correlated. However, RFI and RDG did provide different rankings of candidates for selection. The combination of RFI and RDG to form RIG appears to provide an effective harmonization of the former two biological measures of efficiency. It is recommended that genetic evaluation systems include analyses of ADG and DFI, and breeders are advised to base selection decisions on the basis of multiple-trait selection indexes that incorporate feed intake and performance.
Keywords: Genetic evaluation, residual feed intake, residual gain