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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Genetic relationships between steer performance and female reproduction and possible impacts on whole herd productivity in two tropical beef genotypes

M. L. Wolcott A B D , D. J. Johnston A B , S. A. Barwick A B , N. J. Corbet A C and H. M. Burrow A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit1, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C CSIRO Livestock Industries, Rockhampton, Qld 4702, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: mwolcott@une.edu.au

Animal Production Science 54(1) 85-96 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN13141
Submitted: 12 April 2013  Accepted: 2 August 2013   Published: 8 October 2013

Abstract

Steer growth and carcass composition, and female reproductive performance have been identified as key aspects of productivity by breeders of tropically adapted beef cattle in Australia. Research has also demonstrated that traits describing meat quality and feed intake and efficiency are of economic importance to Australia’s beef industry. The present study aimed to determine genetic relationships of traits describing steer growth, feed intake and efficiency, carcass composition and meat quality with female reproductive performance in two genotypes of tropically adapted beef cattle. Female reproduction traits describing outcomes of first (Mating 1) and second (Mating 2) annual matings and lifetime reproduction (averaged over 6 matings) were analysed for 1020 Brahman (BRAH) and 1117 Tropical Composite (TCOMP) females. Steer traits were available for 1007 BRAH and 1210 TCOMP half-sibs of the females evaluated for reproductive performance, and measurements of liveweight and body composition for 1025 BRAH and 1520 TCOMP bull progeny of the same females were included in the analysis.

Results demonstrated that selection to increase steer carcass weight and eye muscle area and decrease carcass fat depth would have no significant unfavourable impact on female reproductive performance for both genotypes. Measures of liveweight, eye muscle area and P8 fat depth in young BRAH bulls, however, were only moderately correlated with steer carcass equivalents (rg = 0.28 to 0.55) and results showed that selection on the basis of bull measurements alone may negatively affect female lifetime annual calving rate (rg = –0.44 to –0.75) if both were not included in a multi-trait genetic evaluation and considered when making selection decisions. More favourable (lower) net feed intake in BRAH steers was genetically associated with lower Mating 1 weaning rate (rg = 0.76) and higher days to calving (rg = –0.50), although this did not significantly affect lifetime annual calving or weaning rate (rg = 0.10 and 0.29, respectively). For TCOMP, higher steer carcass P8 fat depth was unfavourably genetically associated with female Mating 2 weaning rate (rg = –0.76), although these relationships were not as strong for weaning rate at Mating 1 or when averaged over the animals lifetime (rg = 0.43 and –0.13, respectively). Lower (more favourable) shear force (a measure of tenderness) also displayed a significant genetic association with higher (less favourable) Mating 1 days to calving in TCOMP and, while standard errors were high, tended to be unfavourably associated with other measures of female reproduction evaluated for the present study.

Steer growth, carcass composition, meat quality and residual feed intake and female reproduction could be improved simultaneously if measurements describing both are included in a multi-trait genetic evaluation. Results of the present study also showed that expanding female reproduction traits to include descriptors of first and second mating outcomes, as well as lifetime reproductive performance, would allow a fuller account to be taken of genetic relationships of male traits with female reproduction.


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