Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



The Professional Animal Scientist 29 (2013):559–565


On a life-cycle basis, beef animals are able to consume large amounts of low-cost, low-quality forages relative to higher-cost concentrates compared with pigs and chickens. However, of the 3, beef is still more expensive to produce on a cost–per–edible pound basis. Accordingly, there is need for genetic programs and management changes that will improve efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of beef production. Options include improving reproductive rate, reducing feed used for maintenance, or both, while not reducing output. A goal for improving efficiency of feed utilization is to reduce the amount or proportion of feed used for maintenance. Such reduction is a target for genetic improvement, but such a goal does not include defining a single measure of efficiency. A single efficiency measure would likely lead to single-trait selection and not account for any potentially antagonistic effects on other production characteristics. Because we are not able to explain all variation in individual-animal intake from only knowledge of BW maintained and level of production, measuring feed intake is necessary. Therefore, our recommendation is that national cattle evaluation systems analyze feed intake as an economically relevant trait with incorporation of appropriate indicator traits for an EPD for feed intake requirements that could then be used in a multiple-trait setting such as in a selection index. With improvements in technology for measurement of feed intake, individual measures of feed intake should continually be collected to facilitate development of genetic predictors that enhance accuracy of prediction of progeny differences in national cattle evaluations.