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USDA National Feed Efficiency

About the Program

This USDA-funded project, which ran from 2011 to 2017, aimed to develop selection tools and better understanding of feed efficiency in beef production, identify genetic markers associated with feed intake across multiple breeds and generate data for genomic predictions of feed intake and efficiency. The project collected individual feed intake, weight, and end product quality data from over 8,000 animals across 8 breeds: (Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Wagyu, Limousin).

The project also sought to cooperate with selected seedstock producers and breed association personnel from multiple breeds to help them understand and implement genomic selection, and to gain knowledge relative to the importance of selecting for improved feed efficiency and the tools available to do so.


The Research Objectives Included:

  • Gene expression analysis of various tissues in animals with differences in feed efficiency.
  • Determine microbial population variation associated differences in feed efficiency.
  • Evaluate mitochondrial (cell power houses) differences in animals with differences in feed efficiency.
  • Conduct digestibility trials using animals with differences in feed efficiency.
  • Evaluate forage vs. concentrate level impacts on observed feed efficiency during different production phases (backgrounding and finishing).
  • Determine consistency of DNA marker effects across diets.
  • Engage undergraduate students in the research of feed efficiency in beef cattle.
  • Develop genomic prediction equations for feed intake and efficiency to be used by breed breed associations.
  • The long term goals of the project were to reduce the feed resources required to produce beef via the rapid development and deployment of novel nutritional, genomic, and genetic improvement technologies, strengthen the international competitiveness of US agriculture and enable increased food production by diversion of animal to human food or energy crops by increasing production of animal protein without additional feed inputs and the reduction of the greenhouse gas footprint of beef production systems.