Genetic variance components for residual feed intake and feed conversion ratio and their correlations with other production traits in beef bulls
Feeding costs of animals is a major determinant of profitability in livestock production enterprises. Genetic selection to improve feed efficiency aims to reduce feeding cost in beef cattle and thereby improve profitability. This study estimated genetic (co)variances between weaning weight and other production, reproduction and efficiency traits. Traits included residual feed intake (RFI), feed conversion ration (FCR), growth (average daily gain (ADG), weaning weight (WW) and shoulder height (SHD)), reproductive (scrotum circumference (SCR)) and profitability traits measured in growth tests of young bulls. The only genetic correlations of significance with WW were those with SHD (0.50) and ADG (0.28). Weaning weight serves as no indication of an animal's production, owing to low genetic correlations with other traits (reproduction or feedlot post-weaning growth efficiency). The heritability estimated for FCR was 0.34 and for RFI 0.31 with a genetic correlation estimate of 0.75 between them. The estimated genetic correlation of profitability (Rand-value) with FCR and RFI were -0.92 and -0.59, respectively. The genetic correlations and expected correlated responses between RFI and FCR with Rand-value suggest that indirect selection for Rand-value through direct selection for FCR and/or RFI will result in slower genetic progress in Rand-value than direct selection. However, where the Rand-value cannot be calculated and/or direct selection for Rand-value is not possible, it would be better to select indirectly for Rand-value through the use of FCR rather than RFI. © South African Society for Animal Science.