American Shorthorn Association is studying the relationship between feed efficiency and reproduction

You are what you eat and researchers are studying that concept in livestock. The American Shorthorn Association tells us about links between feed efficiency and reproduction.

Sustainability means many things to many people. One of the ways the beef industry is improving economic sustainability is through selection of cattle that use feed more efficiently.

Leading the way is the American Shorthorn Association and extension researchers at Iowa State University.

In an ongoing research project, they’ve been evaluating the relationships between feed efficiency, growth, and the onset of sexual maturity in growing heifers

According to ASA’s Matt Woolfolk, “In the fall of 2019, we started a new project with Iowa State University where we did a feed efficiency test on growing heifers and looking at the correlation between feed efficiency and measures and indicators of fertility and sexual maturity in those heifers.”

Participating Shorthorn breeders, who deliver six heifers each fall to the Iowa facility, have their cattle evaluated over 98 days for body condition, feed intake, and consumption. They are also evaluated through ultrasound for carcass characteristics, and DNA tested.

Once the heifers are returned home, the owners continue to gather data as they are bred and calve the following year. The goal is to determine if more feed efficient heifers are reproductively efficient.

“Having an idea and an indicator of if there is a relationship, and what that relationship is, can help to improve upon two pretty important things in the election process of females for a cowman to find those efficient females that will breed up and stay in the herd, be efficient and go to work reproductively, quickly,” he notes.

Woolfolk sees the research project as continuing commitment to helping America’s ranchers and farmers become more sustainable.

He adds, “We have a responsibility to take care of the land, to take care of the cattle, and do so in a way that can put dollars back into the pocket of the cattlemen.”

The Shorthorn, known for its gentle disposition and superior beef traits, was the country’s first beef breed, tracing its U.S. history to the 1780s.