A key component of NFREC’s beef research is the feed efficiency facility. One of the largest feed efficiency facility in the United States, it is unique as it is the only facility in the Southeastern U.S. that has the capability to measure feed and water intake in real-time. This unique facility is the only one of its kind conducting research with the U.S. placing a major emphasis on identifying cattle that are more efficient in subtropical climates. Additionally, it is the only facility of this scope and magnitude that has the capability to investigate feed efficiency in subtropical/tropical environments.
The state-of-the-art Feed Efficiency Facility has enabled researchers at NFREC to obtain data to determine factors that affect feed efficiency in cattle as follows: 1) evaluating the relationship of feed efficiency to economically important traits; 2) evaluation of nutritional relationships to feed efficiency; 3) physiological mechanisms related to feed efficiency (such as reproduction and nutritional physiology); 4) management interventions that may alter feed efficiency in cattle
Plans for the Future:
NFREC’s feed efficiency project continues to adjust to the industry’s changing needs. Even with this strong track record, challenges remain. To manage these challenges, NFREC must expand and enhance its facilities. Long-term priorities for NFREC include expanding the feed efficiency facility; constructing grain storage and handling facility and expanding the existing commodity storage facility. Other priorities feature construction of a new grain handling facility and expansion of the existing manure handling facility.
Upgraded facilities will help researchers understand the interactions of feed efficiency on biological processes and management procedures. This information is critical to utilizing feed efficiency as a tool for cattle selection by beef producers. An expanded feed efficiency facility will greatly improve the industry’s economic viability and allow IFAS researchers to find ways to improve feed and forage efficiency. The information they gather and disseminate to the area’s cattle industry will allow ranchers to reduce input costs, which is especially critical as the cost of feed resources continues to increase, and the availability of forages continues to decrease. In addition, the facility will permit researchers to address the industry’s environmental concerns. As knowledge of the animals’ feed efficiency is expanded, the information obtained will help reduce potential environmental disruption by reducing animal nutrient waste. This is especially critical now as the need to consider the effects of the cattle industry on the environment intensifies.
Expected Impact to Florida Cattle Industry:
Approximately 55 to 75% of the total costs associated with beef cattle production are feed costs. Studies in feedlot cattle demonstrated that 10% improvement in average daily gain (ADG) as a result of a 7% increase in appetite improved profitability 18%, whereas, a 10% improvement in feed efficiency returned a 43% increase in profits. Thus efforts at improving the efficiency of feed/forage use will have a large impact on reducing input costs of beef production. For example, in Florida alone with approximately 1.83 million cattle on inventory, a 10% increase in feed/forage efficiency could reduce production costs by at least $36 million annually.
An added benefit of improved feed/forage efficiency would be a decrease in the volume and nutrient composition of manure as well as reduction of methane gas emissions.