Consistency of feed efficiency ranking and mechanisms associated with inter-animal variation among growing calves

A. Asher, A. Shabtay, M. Cohen-Zinder, Y. Aharoni, J. Miron, R. Agmon, I. Halachmi, A. Orlov, A. Haim, L. O. Tedeschi, G. E. Carstens, K. A. Johnson, A. Brosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated the possible mechanisms for explaining interanimal variation in efficiency of feed utilization in intact male Holstein calves. Additionally, we examined whether the feed efficiency (FE) ranking of calves (n = 26) changed due to age and/or diet quality. Calves were evaluated during three periods (P1, P2, and P3) while fed a high-quality diet (calculated mobilizable energy [ME] of 11.8 MJ/kg DM) during P1 and P3, and a low-quality diet (calculated ME of 7.7 MJ/kg DM) during P2. The study periods were 84, 119, and 127 d, respectively. Initial ages of the calves in P1, P2, and P3 were 7, 11, and 15 mo, respectively, and initial body weight (BW) were 245, 367, and 458 kg, respectively. Individual dry matter intake (DMI), average daily gain (ADG), diet digestibility, and heat production (HP) were measured in all periods. The measured FE indexes were: residual feed intake (RFI), the gain-to-feed ratio (G:F), residual gain (RG), residual gain and intake (RIG), the ratio of HP-to-ME intake (HP/ MEI), and residual heat production (RHP). For statistical analysis, animals’ performance data in each period, were ranked by RFI, and categorized into high-, medium-, and low-RFI groups (H-RFI, M-RFI, and L-RFI). RFI was not correlated with in vivo digestibility, age, BW, BCS, or ADG in all three periods. The L-RFI group had lowest DMI, MEI, HP, retained energy (RE), and RE/ ADG. Chemical analysis of the longissimus dorsi muscle shows that the L-RFI group had a higher percentage of protein and a lower percentage of fat compared to the H-RFI group. We suggested that the main mechanism separating L- from H-RFI calves is the protein-to-fat ratio in the deposited tissues. When efficiency was related to kg/day (DMI and ADG) and not to daily retained energy, the selected efficient L-RFI calves deposited more protein and less fat per daily gain than less efficient H-RFI calves. However, when the significant greater heat increment and maintenance energy requirement of protein compared to fat deposition in tissue were considered, we could not exclude the hypothesis that variation in efficiency is partly explained by efficient energy utilization. The ranking classification of calves to groups according to their RFI efficiency was independent of diet quality and age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-1009
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant IS-39988-07 from BARD, the United States Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund. 1Corresponding author: Received July 31, 2017. Accepted December 4, 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Cattle
  • Feed efficiency
  • Heat production
  • Residual feed intake
  • Residual gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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