Evaluation of production efficiencies at pasture of lactating suckler cows of diverse genetic merit and replacement strategy

S. McCabe, N McHugh, N.E. O'Connell, R Prendiville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Feed costs account for the largest proportion of direct cost within suckler beef production systems. By identifying the cow type with enhanced capability of converting grazed herbage to beef output across lactations, suckler cow systems would become more efficient and sustainable. The objective of this study was to estimate grass DM intake (GDMI) and production efficiency among lactating suckler cows of diverse genetic merit for the national Irish maternal index (Replacement Index) which includes cow efficiency components such as milk yield and feed intake. Data from 131 cows of diverse genetic merit within the Replacement Index, across two different replacement strategies (suckler or dairy sourced), were available over two grazing seasons. Milk yield, GDMI, cow live weight (BW) and body condition score (BCS) were recorded during early, mid and late-lactation, with subsequent measures of production efficiency extrapolated. Genetic merit had no significant effect on any variables investigated, with the exception of low genetic merit (LOW) cows being 22 kg heavier in BW than high genetic merit (HIGH) cows (P < 0.05). Beef cows were 55 kg heavier in BW (P < 0.001), had a 0.31 greater BCS (P < 0.05) and 0.30 Unité Fourragère Lait (UFL) greater energy requirement for maintenance compared to dairy sourced beef × dairy crossbred (BDX) cows (P < 0.001). The BDX had 0.8 kg greater GDMI, produced 1.8 kg more milk (P < 0.001), had a 0.8 UFL greater energy requirement for lactation and produced weanlings that were 17 kg heavier in BW than beef cows (P < 0.05). Subsequent efficiency variables of milk per 100 kg BW (P < 0.001), milk per kg GDMI (P < 0.001) and GDMI per 100 kg BW (P < 0.001) were more favourable for BDX. The correlations examined showed GDMI had moderate positive correlations (P < 0.001) with intake per 100 kg BW, net energy intake per kg milk yield, RFI and intake per 100 kg calf weaning weight but was weakly negatively correlated to milk yield per kg GDMI (P < 0.001). No difference was observed across genetic merit for beef cows for any of the traits investigated. Results from the current study showed that, while contrasting replacement strategies had an effect on GDMI and production efficiency, no main effect was observed on cows diverse in genetic merit for Replacement Index. Nonetheless, utilising genetic indexes in the suckler herd is an important resource for selecting breeding females for the national herd and phenotypic performance generated from this study can be included in future genetic evaluations to improve reliability of genetic values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1768-1776
JournalAnimal
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020

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