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Research Project: Quantification of Breed Type by Environment Interactions for Growth, Carcass Yield, and Quality

Location: Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Resaerch

Project Number: 3070-21630-012-016-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2023

Beef cattle production is an important agricultural industry in the United States, significantly contributing to the national economy while providing healthy protein food to feed a growing population. In 2015, the top two revenue generating United States agricultural commodities were cattle/calves and corn grain with a total production value of $60 billion and $49 billion, respectively. However, food animal production faces many challenges from increased scrutiny of the sustainability of production practices and environmental impacts as well as impacts of consumption of meat on human health (disease and antibiotic resistant infections). Meat provides critically important nutrients for human development and optimal health. As the world population increase, beef production will have an important role in feeding the world, but these challenges must be solved. This broadly integrated project will contribute important improvements in beef production to solve these challenges and meet societal needs. Because of a fragmented business model, global and national beef production sectors (encompassing the cow-calf enterprise, the post weaning growth phase, the terminal finishing phase, and eventually to retail and food service) are poorly aligned, with little or no communication among the sectors. This lack of alignment leads to inefficiencies in production due the growth and harvest of cattle in an environment for which they are not genetically suited. Understanding how cattle genotypes influence responses to different management and environments will aid in solving this efficiency obstacle. In the USA, cattle are raised in diverse climates encompassing the dry ranges of the West, subtropics in the Southeast, and highly productive farming regions of the Northern Plains and Midwest. Animals are rapidly transported among regions to the next segment moving adapted animals to areas where they are less adapted which possibly produces inefficiencies of production. The assortment of environments experienced by cattle before harvest may place livestock in regions where their genotype is not a optimally matched. In the beef production chain, management attempts to align with the environment to take advantage of assumptions concerning animal genetics and positively affect resource-utilization and economic efficiency. It is unknown if carryover effects and interactions occur due to transporting genetically adapted animals from a specific environment to another management scheme in a new environment as a necessary step in the progression to the next segment of the production process. Unknown consequences of these genetics, management, and environment combinations on growth and production traits, feed efficiency, meat quality and nutrient composition, and susceptibility to animal diseases affecting subsequent antibiotic treatment contributions to antibiotic resistance, environmental stresses impacting meat quality, and environmental impacts need to be determined.

Weaned calves (stocker animals), from environmentally adapted cows, from various breeds (known genotypes) will be conceived, born and grown to weaning at U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (Clay Center) (400 per year for 3 years). Genetic cohorts of 120 each will be distributed to Clay Center, El Reno, Fort Keogh and an additional 80 head split between Cheyenne and Woodward each year to be grown (275 kg to 450 kg in BW) using forages consistent with management methods representative of the region. Phenotypic data will be collected during the growing, finishing, and product phases. Growth efficiency of beef cattle is the integrated expression of host animal genetics. Estimates of energy use, water use, emissions (to water, soil and air) and total land use will be calculated and compared. Conclusions will be drawn on the impact of GxExMxP interactions on efficiency, performance, resource impact and product quality and healthfulness for humans. New practices and insight (capitalizing on GxExMxP interactions) will provided opportunities to enhance production efficiency, human healthfulness from consumption, resource utilization efficiency and animal resilience to reduce environmental impacts. Feeder cattle from the previous paragraph will be fed for harvest (450 kg to 650kg in BW) at Clay Center (cattle grown at Cheyenne), Stillwater, OK (cattle grown at El Reno), Hay, KS (cattle grown at Woodward), and Miles City (cattle grown at Mile City). The effects of sire breed (genotype groups will be fed in separate pens), growing phase management and environment on phenotypic traits such as days on feed, average daily gain, carcass merit and meat quality, and fatty acid and nutrient profile of the final product will be measured. Loin steaks from carcasses will be collected after harvest and analyzed for palatability and nutritional quality (total fat and fatty acid profile). In addition, if differences in nutritional quality measures are detected then simulation model outcomes will be derived to estimate impacts on human health from consumption of ground beef with differing fatty acid profiles. These efforts also include identifying GxExM effects on meat quality traits such as dark cutting, tenderness, and lean color stability. In addition, if differences in meat or nutritional quality traits are detected, proteomics and metabolomics approaches to understanding and managing this variation will be applied to archived samples.