Evaluation of water and feed intake of purebred cattle in confinement and on arid rangelands, and its implications on selection principles

Progress report for OW19-341

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,958.00
Projected End Date: 09/01/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G134-20-W7502
Grant Recipient: New Mexico State University
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Marcy Ward
New Mexico State University
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Craig Gifford
New Mexico State University
Dr. Samuel Smallidge
New Mexico State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

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.

Project Objectives:
  1. Quantify water and feed intake in yearling purebred cattle in confinement for 60 days.
  2. Determine if a genetic correlation exists for feed and water intake in purebred beef cattle.
  3. Quantify daily water intake, behavior, and performance of ranging beef cattle for a 21 day period per location.
  4. Quantify daily water intake and watering behavior of wildlife.
Timeline:

 

YEAR 1 July 2019 Aug 2019 Sept 2019 Oct 2019 Nov 2019 Dec 2019 Jan 2020 Feb 2020 Mar 2020 Apr 2020 May 2020 June 2020
Task
Planning                        
Research       Start Phase 1               Start Phase 2
Outreach                        
Evaluation                      
YEAR 2
July
2020
Aug 2020 Sept 2020 Oct 2020 Nov 2020 Dec
2020
Jan 2021 Feb 2021 Mar 2021 Apr 2021 May 2021 June 2021
Task
Planning                        
Research                        
Outreach         Producer Meetings Begin     Publication Production
Evaluation                      
YEAR 3
July 2021 Aug 2021 Sept 2021 Oct 2021 Nov 2021 Dec 2021 Jan 2022 Feb 2022

Mar
2022

Apr
2022
May 2022 June 2022
Task
Planning                        
Research                        
Outreach Publication and Programs       Scientific Publication      
Evaluation               Producer Surveys

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Roy Hartzog - Producer
  • John Heckendorn, Marcy Ward - Producer
  • Tim Lust - Producer
  • Howard McCall, Marcy Ward - Producer
  • Mitzi Miller, Marcy Ward - Producer
  • Kyra Monzingo - Producer
  • Donald Walker - Producer

Research

Materials and methods:

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, related to cattle from phase one. Phase two will be conducted at the participating producers’ home ranches.  Individual water intake will be measured from their seed stock herd, while on pasture. 

In phase one of the project, 60 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 120 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 weight and flow meter data.  All data will include date and time stamp of time of collection.  Four 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 English and Continental breeds.  The age of cattle will range from 8 to 10 months of age; with body weights

Phase two 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 two.  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.  Electronic visual identification technology will also be utilized to confirm animal identification.  A scale, placed in front of each drinking source, will be utilized to trigger data collection.  Body weights will also be calculated based on scale weight data collected.

The second component of Phase two 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.

The water systems 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.

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 two 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.  

 

 

 

Research results and discussion:

In trial one of Phase 1 of the project, 68 yearling bulls representing seven breeds were evaluated for daily water intake, watering behavior, dry matter intake (DMI), and growth performance. Bulls had access to four water sources that measured daily intake and behavior. Data was compiled by day for all four tanks. If a tank failed, that day was removed from the data set. The Braunvieh breed had both higher daily water intakes and water visits per day compared to all other breeds, with the Red Angus bulls having the lowest water intake per head per day (Table 1.).   Estimate formulas have utilized DMI and BW in water intake prediction formulas (Ward et al., 2017). The current trial has not demonstrated similar influences on water consumption when raw data was correlated (r=-.21 and -.22, respectively).

Table 1. Water intake and behavior of yearling purebred bulls fed in confinement.

Breed

n

Visits/h/d

L/visit/d

L/animal/d

BW (kg)

%BWa

Angus

40

2.79

7.29

20.33

484

4.33

Braunvieh

6

4.16

5.98

24.88

447

5.67

Charolais

2

3.07

7.24

22.23

427

5.16

Hereford

12

2.87

5.33

15.30

436

3.74

Red Angus

2

1.86

7.81

14.53

473

3.17

Salers

6

4.31

4.90

21.12

421

4.72

Shorthorn

2

3.50

5.29

18.52

486

3.90

a Water intake as a percentage of BW=((BW (kg)/daily water intake (L))*100

Dry matter intake (DMI) has been shown to be directly correlated to water intake, where increased water intake resulted in greater DMI and performance in feedlot cattle (Alhberg et al., 2019).  When these variables were compared in trial one, the correlation between DMI and water intake were low (r=-.26).  Performance, however, was more closely tied to DMI (r=.75).  Average daily gain (ADG), feed efficiency (FE) and residual feed intake (RFI) do not appear to be influences by water consumption (Table 2).

Table 2. Performance parameters of yearling purebred bulls.

Breed

n

L/animal/d

BW (kg)

DMI(Kg)

ADG(Kg)a

FE(Kg)b

RFIc

Angus

40

20.33

484

9.63

1.64

5.89

0.36

Braunvieh

6

24.88

447

9.45

1.45

6.52

0.92

Charolais

2

22.23

427

7.69

1.03

7.49

-3.07

Hereford

12

15.30

436

8.73

1.25

6.99

-1.49

Red Angus

2

14.53

473

9.85

1.46

6.74

-0.84

Salers

6

21.12

421

9.86

1.20

8.18

1.63

Shorthorn

2

18.52

486

9.95

1.53

6.49

-0.01

a Average Daily Gain (ADG) = calculated BW change over 60 days
b Feed Efficiency (FE) ratio = kg of feed required to achieve 1 kg of gain
c Residual Feed Intake is a regression coefficient representing efficiency across pen. Negative values
   represent more metabolically efficient animals.

It should be noted there was a wide range in breed numbers within the 68 bulls tested. Variation between bulls were greatest in the breeds with fewer individual animals represented.  Future trials planned for Phase 1 will elucidate more pronounce differences between breeds. The Angus breed historically is the dominant breed in total numbers tested at the Tucumcari Bull Test. Therefore, their data will also be evaluated in a separate data set to determine genetic influence within breed.

An objective of Phase1 of the project was to determine genetic influence on water consumption in purebred yearling bulls.  As only one trial has been conducted to date, results are preliminary. It is difficult to establish water use efficiency based on breed or genetics within breed at this time.  More trials are needed to reliably develop a more comprehensive data set.  Now that the water system is in place at the Tucumcari Bull Test Station, this research will continue far beyond the life of the project.  Information from the system developed through the grant will help seedstock producers gain knowledge improve the genetic efficiency of their cattle, that will also be passed on to commercial producers.

Participation Summary
22 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
1 Journal articles
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

40 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

Tang, W., Biglari, A., Ebarb, R., Pickett, T., Smallidge, S., and Ward, M. (2021) A Smart Sensing System of Water Quality and Intake Monitoring for Livestock and Wild Animals. Sensors. 21, 2885, https://doi.org/10.3390/s21082885

Ward, M. A., Water Outlook and Drought Management Webinar Series, Southwest Border and Protection Emergency Preparedness Center, "Water and Feed Efficiency its Implications for Drought Management"(December 14, 2020).

Consultations were on site where ranchers were having issues primarily with water quality.  Knowledge gained from the project will help capture how water intake is affected by quality from the Phase 2 of the project.

 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.