Relationships between feeding behaviour, activity, dominance and feed efficiency in finishing beef steers

MJ Haskell, JA Rooke, R Roehe, SP Turner, JJ Hyslop, A Waterhouse, C-A Duthie

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Abstract

To increase the profitability and sustainability of beef production systems, the use of animals with high feed efficiency is preferred. Efficient animals eat less than their peers for the same or better growth. This efficiency can be measured using feed conversion ratios (FCR) and residual feed intake (RFI) parameters. However, the biological mechanisms, particularly those related to the animal’s behaviour and personality, are poorly understood. An individual animal’s behaviour, such as its activity levels, may contribute to efficiency. Feed intake is also a factor in efficiency, and therefore, social dominance rank may also indirectly affect efficiency through its influence on feeding behaviour. This experiment investigated the effects of dominance on feeding behaviour, as well as of dominance and activity on average daily gain (ADG), FCR and RFI in two breeds of beef cattle. The study used a 2 × 2 design with 80 cattle of two breed-types (Charolais-cross (CHx) (n = 41) and Luing (n = 39)) and two diets (a concentrate-based diet (CONC) and a mixed forage and concentrate diet (MIXED)). For each individual steer, FCR and RFI were measured over a 56-day performance test. Feed intake, patterns of feeding behaviour, activity and dominance were also measured. Feed intake was affected by dominance, with more dominant steers having significantly higher dry matter intakes (P = 0.001) and feeding rates (P = 0.006) suggesting that dominant animals had priority of access to the feeders. Steers with higher ADG had higher intakes and performed more standing bouts. Steers with better FCR values performed more standing bouts and younger animals had better FCR. For RFI there was also an interaction between breed and variation in length of the feeding events, showing that Luing steers with more consistent feed bout lengths had better RFI, with no association shown for CHx steers. There was no direct effect of dominance on ADG, FCR or RFI. However, the effect of dominance on feed intake suggests that measures of performance in any study may be affected by feeder-space allocation. The associations between standing bouts and feeding bouts with efficiency measures also suggest that individual animal behavioural characteristics influence efficiency and that overall efficiency of all animals may be improved by allowing animals to express individual patterns of behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume210
Early online date19 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - Jan 2019

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beef cattle
dominance (genetics)
feeding behavior
finishing
feed conversion
feed intake
average daily gain
animals
breeds
animal behavior
concentrates
diet
social dominance
Charolais
young animals
peers
profitability
dry matter intake
production technology
beef

Keywords

  • Activity
  • Beef cattle
  • Dominance
  • Efficiency
  • Feeding behaviour

Cite this

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title = "Relationships between feeding behaviour, activity, dominance and feed efficiency in finishing beef steers",
abstract = "To increase the profitability and sustainability of beef production systems, the use of animals with high feed efficiency is preferred. Efficient animals eat less than their peers for the same or better growth. This efficiency can be measured using feed conversion ratios (FCR) and residual feed intake (RFI) parameters. However, the biological mechanisms, particularly those related to the animal’s behaviour and personality, are poorly understood. An individual animal’s behaviour, such as its activity levels, may contribute to efficiency. Feed intake is also a factor in efficiency, and therefore, social dominance rank may also indirectly affect efficiency through its influence on feeding behaviour. This experiment investigated the effects of dominance on feeding behaviour, as well as of dominance and activity on average daily gain (ADG), FCR and RFI in two breeds of beef cattle. The study used a 2 × 2 design with 80 cattle of two breed-types (Charolais-cross (CHx) (n = 41) and Luing (n = 39)) and two diets (a concentrate-based diet (CONC) and a mixed forage and concentrate diet (MIXED)). For each individual steer, FCR and RFI were measured over a 56-day performance test. Feed intake, patterns of feeding behaviour, activity and dominance were also measured. Feed intake was affected by dominance, with more dominant steers having significantly higher dry matter intakes (P = 0.001) and feeding rates (P = 0.006) suggesting that dominant animals had priority of access to the feeders. Steers with higher ADG had higher intakes and performed more standing bouts. Steers with better FCR values performed more standing bouts and younger animals had better FCR. For RFI there was also an interaction between breed and variation in length of the feeding events, showing that Luing steers with more consistent feed bout lengths had better RFI, with no association shown for CHx steers. There was no direct effect of dominance on ADG, FCR or RFI. However, the effect of dominance on feed intake suggests that measures of performance in any study may be affected by feeder-space allocation. The associations between standing bouts and feeding bouts with efficiency measures also suggest that individual animal behavioural characteristics influence efficiency and that overall efficiency of all animals may be improved by allowing animals to express individual patterns of behaviour.",
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author = "MJ Haskell and JA Rooke and R Roehe and SP Turner and JJ Hyslop and A Waterhouse and C-A Duthie",
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Relationships between feeding behaviour, activity, dominance and feed efficiency in finishing beef steers. / Haskell, MJ; Rooke, JA; Roehe, R; Turner, SP; Hyslop, JJ; Waterhouse, A; Duthie, C-A.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 210, 01.2019, p. 9-15.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Relationships between feeding behaviour, activity, dominance and feed efficiency in finishing beef steers

AU - Haskell, MJ

AU - Rooke, JA

AU - Roehe, R

AU - Turner, SP

AU - Hyslop, JJ

AU - Waterhouse, A

AU - Duthie, C-A

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N2 - To increase the profitability and sustainability of beef production systems, the use of animals with high feed efficiency is preferred. Efficient animals eat less than their peers for the same or better growth. This efficiency can be measured using feed conversion ratios (FCR) and residual feed intake (RFI) parameters. However, the biological mechanisms, particularly those related to the animal’s behaviour and personality, are poorly understood. An individual animal’s behaviour, such as its activity levels, may contribute to efficiency. Feed intake is also a factor in efficiency, and therefore, social dominance rank may also indirectly affect efficiency through its influence on feeding behaviour. This experiment investigated the effects of dominance on feeding behaviour, as well as of dominance and activity on average daily gain (ADG), FCR and RFI in two breeds of beef cattle. The study used a 2 × 2 design with 80 cattle of two breed-types (Charolais-cross (CHx) (n = 41) and Luing (n = 39)) and two diets (a concentrate-based diet (CONC) and a mixed forage and concentrate diet (MIXED)). For each individual steer, FCR and RFI were measured over a 56-day performance test. Feed intake, patterns of feeding behaviour, activity and dominance were also measured. Feed intake was affected by dominance, with more dominant steers having significantly higher dry matter intakes (P = 0.001) and feeding rates (P = 0.006) suggesting that dominant animals had priority of access to the feeders. Steers with higher ADG had higher intakes and performed more standing bouts. Steers with better FCR values performed more standing bouts and younger animals had better FCR. For RFI there was also an interaction between breed and variation in length of the feeding events, showing that Luing steers with more consistent feed bout lengths had better RFI, with no association shown for CHx steers. There was no direct effect of dominance on ADG, FCR or RFI. However, the effect of dominance on feed intake suggests that measures of performance in any study may be affected by feeder-space allocation. The associations between standing bouts and feeding bouts with efficiency measures also suggest that individual animal behavioural characteristics influence efficiency and that overall efficiency of all animals may be improved by allowing animals to express individual patterns of behaviour.

AB - To increase the profitability and sustainability of beef production systems, the use of animals with high feed efficiency is preferred. Efficient animals eat less than their peers for the same or better growth. This efficiency can be measured using feed conversion ratios (FCR) and residual feed intake (RFI) parameters. However, the biological mechanisms, particularly those related to the animal’s behaviour and personality, are poorly understood. An individual animal’s behaviour, such as its activity levels, may contribute to efficiency. Feed intake is also a factor in efficiency, and therefore, social dominance rank may also indirectly affect efficiency through its influence on feeding behaviour. This experiment investigated the effects of dominance on feeding behaviour, as well as of dominance and activity on average daily gain (ADG), FCR and RFI in two breeds of beef cattle. The study used a 2 × 2 design with 80 cattle of two breed-types (Charolais-cross (CHx) (n = 41) and Luing (n = 39)) and two diets (a concentrate-based diet (CONC) and a mixed forage and concentrate diet (MIXED)). For each individual steer, FCR and RFI were measured over a 56-day performance test. Feed intake, patterns of feeding behaviour, activity and dominance were also measured. Feed intake was affected by dominance, with more dominant steers having significantly higher dry matter intakes (P = 0.001) and feeding rates (P = 0.006) suggesting that dominant animals had priority of access to the feeders. Steers with higher ADG had higher intakes and performed more standing bouts. Steers with better FCR values performed more standing bouts and younger animals had better FCR. For RFI there was also an interaction between breed and variation in length of the feeding events, showing that Luing steers with more consistent feed bout lengths had better RFI, with no association shown for CHx steers. There was no direct effect of dominance on ADG, FCR or RFI. However, the effect of dominance on feed intake suggests that measures of performance in any study may be affected by feeder-space allocation. The associations between standing bouts and feeding bouts with efficiency measures also suggest that individual animal behavioural characteristics influence efficiency and that overall efficiency of all animals may be improved by allowing animals to express individual patterns of behaviour.

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KW - Beef cattle

KW - Dominance

KW - Efficiency

KW - Feeding behaviour

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JO - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

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