An old adage that is often mentioned in discussions among farmers about livestock is: “An ounce of livestock is worth a ton of food. But how much feed is really worth better breeding in livestock?
ABP Food Group’s research farm in County Carlow has put that saying to the test.
He seeks to determine how improved genetics can affect the feed efficiency in dairy/beef cattle by examining the impact of father’s genetics on the carcass weight of the progeny.
Each year, a selection of cattle samples from the ABP Demonstration Farm are sent to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) Tully Progeny Testing Center in County Kildare.
The individual feed intake of cattle is measured and from the data collected, the feed efficiency of each animal can be measured.
ABP’s Head of Agri-Sustainability, Stephen Connolly, explained: “Feed efficiency is the amount of food an animal needs to eat. 1kg live weight gain.
He explained that calculating feed efficiency is important because “there is an opportunity to improve environmental efficiency on every kg of liveweight gain through genetics, as well as save money on high food costs”.
Results from the ABP Demo Farm showed that looking only at the Aberdeen Angus breed, the progeny of the most efficient Angus bull and the least efficient Angus bull had a difference of 2 kg of feed for every 1 kg of gain of live weight produced.
This means that the offspring of the least efficient bull need 2 kg more feed than the most efficient bull to gain 1 kg of live weight.
The results are found to be similar for other cattle breeds on the farm, with the offspring of some bulls being more effective at gaining weight than others.
Although this may not seem like a lot of day-to-day nourishment, the worst performing offspring would need a 200 kg extra of feed per 100 kg of live weight gain.
For a breeder finishing 100 cattle, the progeny of the top performing bull would need 20 t less feed in total more than 100 cattle from the least efficient bull to achieve 100 kg live weight gain/animal.
Connolly noted that 100 cattle bred from the more efficient Angus sire would need €8,000 less in foodat current feed costs, than cattle raised from the least efficient Angus bull (to gain 100 kg live weight).
The ABP sustainability manager further noted that continued advances in genetics will further reduce the amount of feed needed to produce live weight gain and research highlights the importance of looking at sire indices and commercial beef value (CBV) when purchasing calves for beef production.