Date of this Version
Our objective was to estimate genetic parameters for feed intake, feeding behavior, and ADG in composite ram lambs (¹⁄₂ Columbia, ¹⁄₄ Hampshire, ¹⁄₄ Suffolk). Data were collected from 1986 to 1997 on 1,239 ram lambs from approximately 11 to 17 wk of age at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center near Clay Center, NE. Feeding equipment consisted of an elevated pen with an entrance chute that permitted access to the feeder by only one ram lamb at a time, with disappearance of feed measured by an electronic weighing system. Ram lambs were grouped 11 per pen from 1986 to 1989, and nine per pen from 1990 to 1997. Data were edited to exclude invalid feeding events, and approximately 80% of the data remained after edits were applied. Traits analyzed were daily feed intake (DFI), event feed intake (EFI), residual feed intake (RFI), daily feeding time (DFT), event feeding time (EFT), number of daily feeding events (DFE), and ADG. Feed intake traits of DFI and EFI had estimated heritabilities of 0.25 and 0.33, respectively, whereas estimated heritability of RFI was 0.11. Heritability estimates for feeding behavior traits, including DFT, EFT, and DFE, ranged from 0.29 to 0.36. Average daily gain had an estimated heritability of 0.26. Genetic correlations were positive between all pairs of traits, except for RFI and ADG, and that estimate was essentially zero. Phenotypic correlations were generally similar to genetic correlations. Genetic correlations were large (0.80) between DFI and ADG, intermediate between DFI and RFI (0.61) and between DFT and DFE (0.55), and low (0.17 to 0.31) for the other pairs of traits, with the exception of RFI and ADG (−0.03). Genetic correlations between behavioral traits were greater than correlations between behavioral traits and measures of feed intake or ADG; however, selection for ADG and/or feed intake would be expected to cause some changes in feeding behavior.