Net Feed Efficiency project explained...

This exciting, innovative and industry-leading R&D project is based on measuring Net Feed Efficiency (NFE) in Stabiliser cattle with the aim of improving feed utilisation efficiency and reducing costs for Stabiliser breeders and their commercial farmer customers.

The £1.2 million, five-year project funded by InnovateUK* was designed to improve efficiency in beef production systems and at the same time reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The consortium partners included BIG Ltd, JSR, SRUC and Alltech/Keenan. Morrison/Woodheads are also contributing by providing retail value and meat quality data on the progeny of sires and steers tested for NFE. The grant was awarded following the consortium’s successful application to InnovateUK’s Sustainable Protein Production competition for R&D funding.

BIG Ltd and JSR have established a commercial, ground breaking central performance test facility in East Yorkshire which is equipped with world-leading GrowSafe technology to measure individual feed intake. The 16 node unit houses 80 animals for each test batch and has up to 3 batches per year.

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SRUC processed the feed intake and animal growth data generated by the system to calculate an
individual animal NFE value and then SRUC geneticists used the efficiency values to create genetic
selection tools and ultimately the first Estimated Breeding Value for NFE produced in the UK which went live in February 2017.

The first trial of 80 young breeding bulls started in January 2012........5 years on we have an EBV
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Currently all the performance records that we collect measure outputs but have no direct input costs associated with them, e.g. 400 day weight and body condition score.  By accurately measuring feed intake, which accounts for about 70% of our variable costs, and live weight gain, we will be able to calculate the true cost per kilo gain and identify the individual animals that are the most profitable.

We are looking for those animals that grow as fast as their contemporaries (or faster) but which eat less feed on a dry matter basis. There is a big difference in feed efficiency between individual animals within all breeds and it is a moderately heritable trait (0.37) so it is therefore possible to select genetically superior bulls, cows, and heifers and change the feed efficiency in the breeding population.

Early analysis shows that savings in feed and associated overhead costs of £80 to £100 per cow/calf unit per year can be achieved.

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Dr Jimmy Hyslop explains NFE

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