A feed efficiency online contest will help cattle producers better understand the merits of measuring residual feed intake and behavior of beef cattle, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Dr. Dan Hale, AgriLife Extension meat specialist, and his colleague, Dr. Gordon Carstens, professor of animal nutrition in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University, have put together a contest in cooperation with BEEF magazine that will test readers' knowledge of residual feed intake.
Residual feed intake calculates the difference between an animal's dry matter intake and its expected dry matter intake based on its body weight and level of production, Hale said.
The contest features six steers with high residual feed intake and six steers with low residual feed intake. Photos and videos of the 12 steers are available on the BEEF magazine website, along with the animals' individual data, so readers can make choices.
The November issue will discuss the results and lessons, Hale said. Winners will be announced in December.
"The whole idea behind this exercise is to hammer home the fact that feed efficiency plays such an important role in making profits in the cattle business. You also find out what genetics perform best and how you can make changes to maximize profit potential," Hale said.
"Efficient cattle are those that eat less feed than expected based on their body weight and performance," he said. "These animals will have a negative residual feed intake. Inefficient animals will eat more than expected and have a positive residual feed intake."
Hale said another goal of the contest is for cattle producers to learn the importance of obtaining data on their cattle to help make better choices when it comes to genetics and change management strategies in herds to improve profit margins.
"This is especially true during times of record beef prices," Hale said.