Redefining residual feed intake to account for marbling fat in beef breeding programs

C. J. Duff, J. H. J. van der Werf, P. F. Parnell, S. A. Clark
2021 Animal Production Science  
Context. Improving meat quality traits such as marbling is a well established breeding objective for many beef producers. More recently, the inclusion of feed efficiency is being considered. The main driving factors being the direct feed cost, as well as consumer concerns related to environmental sustainability of beef production. Aims. The main aim of this study was to examine modifying the definition of residual feed intake (RFI), by including an adjustment for intramuscular fat (IMF). The
more » ... ondary aim was to further understand the genetic relationships between feed intake and a range of carcass traits. Methods. Using a population of 4034 Australian Angus animals, feed intake and carcass traits, along with pedigree and fixed effects, were analysed. This included the calculation of three definitions of RFI, being the standard definition, accounting for average daily gain and metabolic mid-weight, and two amended versions accounting for ultrasound IMF (RFI u ), or carcass IMF (RFI i ). Variance components, heritabilities, and genetic and phenotypic correlations were estimated and compared. Key results. All three definitions of RFI were moderately heritable (0.30-0.32) and highly correlated, both genetically (0.99) and phenotypically (0.99). Unfavourable genetic correlations were observed between RFI and carcass IMF (CIMF), and between RFIu and CIMF at 0.29 and 0.24 respectively. Similarly, there were unfavourable genetic correlations between RFI and ultrasound IMF (UIMF), between RFIi and UIMF, and between RFIu and UIMF at 0.30, 0,21 and 0.23 respectively. Conclusions. RFI can be redefined to account for traits, other than average daily gain and metabolic mid-weight, such as IMF. However due to limitations of phenotypic linear regression, and only small amounts of variation in feed intake being explained by the IMF traits, the redefinition of RFI was a suboptimal approach to breeding candidate selection. Furthermore, the present study confirmed the challenges with selecting for both feed efficiency and meat quality traits as they are generally genetically antagonist. Implications. For beef cattle breeding programs, the investigation of alternative selection approaches is warranted. This may include further understanding the genetic correlations among traits in the breeding objective and, according to their economic value, optimally weighting the related estimated breeding value.
doi:10.1071/an21107 fatcat:nuiamruqijc5zinfo3awlhicli