BIF: Five Year National Feed Efficiency Study

3 Key Points:

  1. Beef production is 4th largest U.S. manufacturing industry; 1% genetic improvement in cattle would contribute $700 million annually to economy
  2. 10% improvement in RFI equates to $1 billion in savings/profit for beef industry
  3. Five-year, multi-breed study is designed to look at opportunities and challenges and make recommendations

Goals and Objectives for a Five Year National Research and Extension Project to Improve Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle

Dorian Garrick, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, gave an overview about an upcoming project to look at feed efficiency in beef cattle. The multi-breed, multi-collaborator project will evaluate many aspects of feed efficiency, including: economic impact, greenhouse gas emissions, rations, days to finish, etc.

Genetic improvement and feed efficiency in the beef industry have serious economic effects attached to them. Yearling weight alone holds significant economic merit. A 0.5% improvement in yearling weight performance means hundreds of millions of dollars in increased monetary value. Looking at it from the feed efficiency side, a 10% improvement in Residual Feed Intake (RFI) equates to $1 billion in savings/profit industry-wide. These are real numbers and the beef industry is leaving a lot of money on the table.

Feed efficiency can also be important in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and competition with humans for consumption of grains. Regardless of the political implications regarding both issues, the study is aimed at measuring the correlation feed efficiency has with each.

As part of the study, researchers are planning to genotype six breeds using the 700k high-density DNA panel. This data will then be evaluated next to the actual phenotype performance data from the test animals. RFI, days to finish, forage vs. grain rations, greenhouse gas emissions, and gut microbe composition will be evaluated.

The study has a large extension component to it as well. Results from the study will be used to illustrate the economic impact beef cattle efficiency has to the nation’s ranches. Needless to say, efficiency has become, and will be, a big issue in the next decade. There’s a large price tag attached to increased efficiency and performance for the beef industry. For more information, visit

Question: what kind of response do you get when you discuss feed efficiency with your customers? Post your comments below.

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