Identification of feed intake traits related to beef reproductive improvement

  • Author / Creator
    Olson, Cameron A
  • Reproductive efficiency in the Western Canadian beef cow herd has not improved over the past 3 decades, despite consistent and measurable improvement in several related areas of production. The general objective of this thesis was to evaluate the relationships between early-observation traits (feeding behaviour), weight change, and reproductive efficiency in beef cows. Estimates of total dry matter intake and the relationship between residual feed intake (adjusted for body composition; RFIFAT) observed in heifers and mature cows were also evaluated as traits of interest and use to the Canadian beef industry. Chapters 3 and 4 investigated the relationship between feeding behaviours and reproductive efficiency and provided phenotypic and genetic correlations that may be of use in selecting heifers with greater reproductive potential if those heifers have feeding behaviours reported. Feeding behaviour and reproductive efficiency were both correlated with dry matter intake; feeding behaviours that promote dry matter intake may be useful in the identification of heifers with greater reproductive potential. Chapter 5 evaluates the usefulness of tracking cow weights over time and the usefulness of comparing cow weights to an idealized growth curve estimation. Generally, cows that gained weight over time were more likely to be culled for reproductive failure, and the same was true for cows that were heavier than their estimated body weight. Producers may be able to use weight-monitoring technology currently available and in development to identify cows that abort their calves after a positive pregnancy evaluation and remove them from their herd at a time when feed resources are expensive. Chapter 6 was a comprehensive and unique estimation of cow dry matter intake over time, including energy estimates based on birth, weaning, residual feed intake tests as a heifer and as a cow, and subsequent calving events with associated energy expenditures for milk production. These estimates were compared to genomic retained heterozygosity, breed composition, and winter-feeding environment to evaluate the effects of those variables on dry matter intake predictions. Chapter 7 investigated the relationship between heifer residual feed intake and residual feed intake observed in the same animals as mature cows. Residual feed intake in heifers can be used to select cows that maintain a proportion of their efficiency observed as heifers, and ultimately provides evidence that the selection of feed-efficient heifer calves as replacement animals should result in a more efficient mature cow herd.
    This thesis provided evidence to support the selection of heifer replacements using feeding behaviours observed during a feed intake test, the use of weight monitoring technology to identify cows that may have had reproductive issues. This thesis also provided some of the first estimates of dry matter intake over the course of the production cycle in a large number of animals under normal production environments and provided estimates of the relationship between heifer and cow residual feed intake.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.