116 bulls in feed trial

24 Apr, 2001 10:00 PM
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AGRICULTURE Western Australia will next week release the final weight gain and feed efficiency data for 116 bulls from various breeds currently in the trial at their annual feed efficiency trial field day.

The data collected from the trial currently in its fourth year at Vasse will be used to aid in the development of a new EBV measurement for cattle.

The EBV measurement being developed is for the trait of Net Feed Efficiency.

Net Feed Efficiency (NFE) is an alternative way to measure the feed intake of an animal required for growth.

NFE measures the differences in feed consumption between animals after the effects of body weight and growth rates are removed, therefore providing farmers with a useful indicator for breeding stock that have to be fed after their growing phase is over.

NFE is not intended to replace the old measure of feed conversion rate, which measures the efficiency at which cattle utilise feed to produce more beef, but to provide additional information, as feed conversion rates will still be the most important trait for the feedlotter.

"However, in terms of breeding for dam replacement it appears that NFE is the most economically important trait," AGWest's research officer Richard Morris said.

"Measurements taken in the trial so far at Vasse show there is a lot of variability in NFE in the WA herd."

The results so far have shown that animals with a good NFE have eaten up to 300kg less feed over the 70 day trial period than animals with a poor NFE.

This could mean big savings in feed costs for producers in terms of their breeding herd if they are able to effectively select these animals.

The bulk of the research for the generation of the EBV's for NFE trait is being done in Trangie, NSW.

Mr Morris said the original work at Trangie was done on Angus cattle, so they will be the first breed to get NFE EBV's and they will be available hopefully by the end of the year.

"The other breeds will have to wait sometime until enough of their bulls have been measured and the genetic linkages are strong enough and this could take some years," Mr Morris said.

At the moment the bulls are being run in both individual pens and in groups on automatic feeders.

Mr Morris said AGWest hoped to increase the number of automatic feed intake recorders and put scales on the front of each of them so they can double the number of bulls they process each year.

"Using automatic feeders will also drop the cost per bull to enter the trial," Mr Morris said.

"It may also be possible in the future for producers to conduct the NFE tests on their bulls at home, with the help of AGWest, if they purchase an automatic feeder and follow the tight guidelines."

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