Genetic and phenotypic parameter estimates for feed intake and other traits in growing beef cattle, and opportunities for selection

K. M. Rolfe, W. M. Snelling, M. K. Nielsen, H. C. Freetly, C. L. Ferrell, T. G. Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Growth, feed intake, and temperament indicator data, collected over 5 yr on a total of 1,141 to 1,183 mixed-breed steers, were used to estimate genetic and phenotypic parameters. All steers had a portion of Hereford, Angus, or both as well as varying percentages of Simmental, Charolais, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Red Angus, and MARC III composite. Because the steers were slaughtered on various dates each year and the animals thus varied in days on feed, BW and feed data were adjusted to a 140-d feeding period basis. Adjustment of measures of feed efficiency [G:F or residual feed intake (RFI), intake adjusted for metabolic body size, and BW gain] for body fatness recorded at slaughter had little effect on the results of analyses. Average daily gain was less heritable (0.26) than was midtest BW (MBW; 0.35). Measures of feed intake had greater estimates of heritability, with 140-d DMI at 0.40 and RFI at 0.52; the heritability estimate for G:F was 0.27. Flight speed (FS), as an indicator of temperament, had an estimated heritability of 0.34 and a repeatability of 0.63. As expected, a strong genetic (0.86) correlation was estimated between ADG and MBW; genetic correlations were less strong between DMI and ADG or MBW (0.56 and 0.71). Residual feed intake and DMI had a genetic correlation of 0.66. Indexes for phenotypic RFI and genotypically restricted RFI (no correlation with BW gain) were compared with simple economic indexes incorporating feed intake and growth to elucidate expected selection responses under different criteria. In general, few breed differences were detected across the various measurements. Heterosis contributed to greater DMI, RFI, and MBW, but it did not significantly affect ADG, G:F, or FS. Balancing output (growth) with input costs (feed) is needed in practicing selection, and FS would not be recommended as an indicator trait for selection to change feed efficiency. An index including BW gain and RFI produced the best economic outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3452-3459
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Cattle
  • Feed intake
  • Flight speed
  • Genetic variation
  • Growth
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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