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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition, Growth and Physiology » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #399431

Research Project: Optimizing Nutrient Management and Efficiency of Beef Cattle and Swine

Location: Nutrition, Growth and Physiology

Title: Heritability of beef cow metabolizable energy for maintenance

item Freetly, Harvey
item Jacobs, Devin
item Thallman, Richard - Mark
item Snelling, Warren
item Kuehn, Larry

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/9/2023
Publication Date: 5/10/2023
Citation: Freetly, H.C., Jacobs, D.R., Thallman, R.M., Snelling, W.M., Kuehn, L.A. 2023. Heritability of beef cow metabolizable energy for maintenance. Journal of Animal Science. 101. Article skad145.

Interpretive Summary: Feed is one of the greatest costs of beef production. Most of the feed used annually by a cow is to maintain her body. A study was conducted measuring individual feed intake of mature pregnant cows. We have determined that the amount of energy that a cow uses to maintain her body is heritable suggesting that cows can be selected for differences in the energy required to maintain their bodies.

Technical Abstract: Most of the metabolizable energy that a cow uses during a production year is for maintenance; however, less is known about the heritability of maintenance compared to other traits that can be measured directly. Feed intake is a heritable trait in the mature cow and most of the feed consumed is used for maintenance. We hypothesized that maintenance energy was a heritable trait. Individual feed intake was measured for 84 or 85 d on 5 yr old pregnant cows (N = 887) from a pedigreed population of cattle that represent prominent breeds in the United States. Phenotypic mean (± SD) values were 654 ± 68 kg for cow body weight, 0.21 ± 0.24 kg/d for average daily gain, and 175 ± 17 d for midpoint fetal age. Dry matter intake averaged (± SD) 10.84 ± 1.41 kg/d. Metabolizable energy for maintenance was estimated by subtracting the metabolizable energy used for conceptus growth and tissue accretion from metabolizable energy intake. Metabolizable energy for maintenance averaged (± SD) 139 ± 18 ME kcal/d/BW kg0.75 and had a heritability of 0.31 ± 0.11. Cows have a moderate heritability for maintenance suggesting an opportunity for selection.