Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2005


Published for the Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XIX December 6, 7 and 8, 2005, Rapid City, South Dakota.


Feed efficiency is not a new topic to the beef industry. Historically this topic has been revisited by the industry every 10 to 15 years with little benefit to the producer. The lack of progress in understanding the genetics of feed efficiency stems from the difficulty in trying to accurately measure individual intakes, coupled with extreme costs and a long generation interval. Feed efficiency is difficult to define and needs to be evaluated in the producing female, as well as the growing/finishing animal. Heritability of feed efficiency has been estimated to be moderate, with values ranging from .28-.44. These values indicate that variation among and within beef cattle populations do exist for feed efficiency. This means genetic selection will work as a tool to improve feed efficiency. The main benefit of understanding the genetics of feed efficiency and developing tools to improve efficiency is reduced production costs. With 70-80% of the total variable costs in beef production being feed costs, the slightest improvement in feed efficiency will have a significant impact in profitability in multiple areas of beef production. Technology has developed to a point that we can better measure, record, analyze and implement selection for energy efficiency.