Limousin Proves Feed-Efficiency

DENVER, Colo. (March 17, 2011) Feed accounts for 65 to 80 percent of total beef-production costs. With grain prices growing, finding a way to lower those costs is important to cattle producers. Feed-management practices go only so far, however. A more promising tool for cattle producers is genetic selection for improved feed efficiency.

One measure of feed efficiency is residual feed intake (RFI), which is the difference between actual and expected feed intakes. It is the net value (if any) that remains after an animal meets its requirements for maintenance and growth. When cattle consume less feed than expected, they have a negative RFI value, which indicates better-than-average feed efficiency.

A research report by Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, University of California, Davis, explains it best: "Residual feed intake is the best available measure of efficiency, because it is independent of level of production; moreover, RFI is moderately to highly heritable, and will respond to genetic selection. Selection for reduced RFI in growing animals should reduce feed costs for beef cattle in all stages of life, including the cow herd."

A study conducted by the University of Minnesota from fall 2009 to spring 2010 examined the Residual Feed Intake (RFI) of 24 Limousin steers to that of 23 Angus and Simmental influenced steers. The 174 day test showed that the Limousin steers had a dry matter intake of 20.4 lbs. /day with an average daily gain of 4.07 lbs. and an RFI of -0.822. Compare that to the dry matter intake of 21.0 lbs. /day, average daily gain of 3.94 lbs. and an RFI of 0.870 for the commercial composite of predominantly Angus and Simmental influenced steers.

What does this mean financially? Limousin cattle had a $3.45 per cwt cost-of-gain advantage, or 6.4 percent. Additional findings in the study noted that the performance advantage and the higher yielding carcasses combined for a $12.55 per head advantage.

"RFI has become an important aspect of today's beef industry," said Mike Smith, NALF President. "Limousin cattle are low birth, high growth cattle that perform and meet the demands of commercial cattlemen."

The North American Limousin Foundation (www.nalf.org), headquartered in Centennial, Colo., provides programs and services - including genetic evaluation of 5,000 active sires - to more than 3,000 members and their commercial customers. The Limousin breed and its Lim-Flex® hybrid lead the beef industry in muscle-growth efficiency and ideally complement British breeds.

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