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

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,958.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
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
Dr. Craig Gifford
New Mexico State University
Dr. Samuel Smallidge
New Mexico State University


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: genetics, watering systems
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal 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 from proposal:

    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.
    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.