Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Genetic and phenotypic characterisation of animal, carcass, and meat quality traits from temperate and tropically adapted beef breeds.

D. J. Johnston, A. Reverter, H. M. Burrow, V. H. Oddy and D. L. Robinson

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54(2) 107 - 118
Published: 04 March 2003


A total of 7622 cattle were measured for several weight and body composition traits in temperate and tropically adapted breeds. Traits included: liveweight, hip height, body fat score, muscle score, flight time, ultrasound scanned fatness, and eye muscle area. Measurements were taken at 3 stages during the project: post-weaning, start of finishing, and end of finishing (i.e. pre-slaughter). Animals were finished to 3 target market-weight end-points (220, 280, or 340 kg carcass weight), either on pasture or in a feedlot, and in 2 different geographic regions for tropically adapted breeds. These data were used to estimate genetic parameters for the traits at each stage, and also to estimate the effect of market weight and finishing regimes on the phenotypic and genetic expression of each trait measured at the end of finishing stage. Results showed, for all traits, that the magnitude of the phenotypic expression increased across the stages and market-weight end-points for the end of finishing measures. Feedlot finishing decreased the age at slaughter, and increased fatness and muscling compared with pasture-finished animals. Heritabilities ranged from 0.13 to 0.58, with subjectively scored traits generally being lower than objectively measured traits. Additive genetic variances generally increased with stage of measurement, and with increasing market weight. Genetic correlations of the same measure across stages or market weights were all close to unity. Additive genetic variances of the various traits were similar for feedlot versus pasture finish groups, and the genetic correlation between each measure for feedlot and pasture finish was generally greater than 0.80. The effect of finishing geographic region (i.e. temperate versus subtropical environments) for the tropically adapted breeds had little effect on the size of the additive genetic variances or genetic correlations between traits across geographic regions.

The results imply that changing the production system had a significant impact on the phenotypic expression of growth and body composition traits but little effect on the underlying genetic expression and subsequent ranking of sires (i.e. no evidence of genotype by production environment interactions). Therefore, these live animal measures could be used as selection criteria in genetic evaluation programs and may also be genetically correlated with abattoir carcass and meat quality traits.

Keywords: cattle, ultrasound, correlations, G × E interactions.

© CSIRO 2003

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