Title: Evaluation of water and feed intake of purebred cattle in confinement and on arid rangelands, and its implications on selection principles
Water is the number one nutrient required by ruminants. However, little research exists related to water consumption in ranging beef cattle. Though there have been studies that measure feed and water intake concurrently in a dry lot situation, there is little genetic evaluation related to these data.
The amount of feed it takes to produce one pound of gain is called feed efficiency. Feed efficiency has been shown to be 35-40% heritable. Preliminary data from the Tucumcari testing facility has demonstrated this trait is highly variable between individuals. This variation is hypothesized to also exist in water intake. Therefore, the objective of the project is to quantify daily water and feed intake to determine the correlation between these variables. The second objective will be to evaluate the genetic influence on these phenotypic traits.
The project will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, purebred yearling bulls from New Mexico and West Texas will be brought to a central location in Tucumcari, NM. Individual dry matter and water intake data will be collected from 350 bulls over three years. In phase two, a portable water intake system will be taken to participating ranches, so individual water intake data may be collected on ranging beef cattle. Specifically, data will be collected from dams, siblings, and herd sires that are genetically linked to the yearling bulls tested in phase one.
Bulls efficient in both feed and water use will have lower input requirements. Lower inputs could result in improved stewardship of the land and increased profits for producers. Extension programming and publications will be used to educate producers about how to potentially better manage their water and feed resources through genetic selection.
- Quantify water and feed intake in yearling purebred cattle in confinement for 60 days.
- Determine if a genetic correlation exists for feed and water intake in purebred beef cattle.
- Quantify daily water intake, behavior, and performance of ranging beef cattle for a 21 day period per location.
- Quantify daily water intake and watering behavior of wildlife.
The project will have two phases. Phase one will be conducted at the NMSU Tucumcari Ag Science Center, located in Tucumcari, NM. Individual dry matter intake, water consumption, and growth performance will be measured from yearling purebred bulls. These bulls are owned by the participating producers of the project. Phase two will be conducted at the producers’ home ranches. Individual water intake will be measured from the yearling bulls’ dams, herd sires, and siblings while on pasture.
In phase one of the project, 64 purebred yearling bulls will be used for each trial period. Two 60 day trials will be conducted each year for three years, for a total of 384 bulls tested. The diet will be a total mixed ration offered ad libitum. Daily individual asfed intakes will be measured through the digital feed intake system. At the conclusion of each trial, average dry matter intake will be calculated. Average daily gain, feed efficiency, and weight per day of age will also be calculated per animal.
Individual water consumption will be measured through a uniquely designed Water Intake System (WIS). The (WIS) includes the ability to individually identify animals through radio frequency identification ear tags and image capturing technology. Identification data be collected in conjunction with change in water depth of a trough of known volume. All data will include date and time stamp of time of collection. Three water stations will be available in the 170’ X 210’ pen. Water will be provided ad libitum and water levels maintained by a manual float system. The WIS will be housed in the same pen as the digital feed intake system. Data from both systems will be compiled at the conclusion of each trial period.
The cattle source will be from ranches that raise Angus and Hereford breeds. The age of cattle will range from 8 to 10 months of age; with body weights of 600 to 800 pounds. A regression analysis will be used to rank the efficiency of each bull within a trial. This formula considers metabolic body weight, dry matter intake, and average daily gain. The resulting value is called Residual Feed Intake (RFI), and is a measure of metabolic efficiency (Koch et al, 1963).
Phase one of the project will determine variations in dry matter and water intakes, and how these variables relate to (RFI) in growing bulls. The cattle industry has made significant advancements in genomics and have developed genetic evaluations for dry matter intake and cattle efficiency. However, the accuracy of genetic predictions of feed efficiency might be reduced by such environmental factors as diet quality. Therefore, the genomic information from these cattle (EPDs and molecular breeding values) for dry matter intake will be correlated against the actual feed and water data to determine the accuracy of these genetic indicators. Most of the current research evaluates the impact of diet (either quantity or quality) on feed efficiency, but few studies evaluate the effects of water or water quality on feed efficiency.
Phase 2 of the project will have two components. First, individual water intake will be measured from dams, siblings, and herd sires that are genetically linked to the yearling bulls tested in phase one. A modified water intake system will be used to collect individual water intake from cattle in large pastures. The system will be housed on a 16 foot trailer for easy transport. The solar powered mobile watering unit will be placed in close proximity to and plumbed from a single source water supply located on a participating producers land. Cattle will be fenced off of the main water source. The only water available to the cattle will be through the WIS. Cattle will be affixed with an electronic identification tag. The station will be monitored daily by NMSU or ranch personnel. The data collection period will last 21 days at each location. The design of the mobile system will have six access points, so cattle have ample opportunity to drink and natural watering behavior is not impacted.
All ranch data will first be combined within breed. If variation between ranches proves to be too great, ranches will be evaluated on an individual basis. Weaning weight, body condition of cows, and pregnancy rates data will be collected. Weather, pasture size, and elevation will also be considered.
The second component of Phase 2 will include collecting water intake and watering behavior of resident wildlife. The design of the mobile unit will not impede water access to wildlife. The system will include motion detection image capturing devices that will have infrared capabilities. Images will be corresponded to volume change based on time stamp information. Data will be quantified by species.
Not applicable at this time.