|Title||Genetic parameters for feed efficiency in Romane rams and responses to single-generation selection.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2019|
|Authors||Tortereau, F, Marie-Etancelin, C, Weisbecker, J-L, Marcon, D, Bouvier, F, Moreno, C, François, D|
|Date Published||2019 Oct 23|
Feeding costs represent one of the highest expenditures in animal production systems. Breeding efficient animals that express their growth potential while eating less is therefore a major objective for breeders. We estimated the genetic parameters for feed intake, feed efficiency traits (residual feed intake (RFI) and feed conversion ratio (FCR)), growth and body composition traits in the Romane meat sheep breed. In these traits, selection responses to single-generation divergent selection on RFI were evaluated. From 2009 to 2016, a total of 951 male lambs were tested for 8 weeks starting from 3 months of age. They were weighed at the beginning and at the end of the testing period. Backfat thickness and muscle depth were recorded at the end of the testing period through ultrasound measurements. Feed intake was continuously recorded over the testing period using the automatic concentrate feeders. The heritability of RFI was estimated at 0.45 ± 0.08, which was higher than the heritability of FCR (0.30 ± 0.08). No significant genetic correlations were observed between RFI and growth traits. A favourable low negative genetic correlation was estimated between RFI and muscle depth (-0.30 ± 0.15), though additional data are needed to confirm these results. The selection of low RFI sires based on their breeding values led to the production of lambs eating significantly less concentrate (3% decrease in the average daily feed intake), but with the same growth as lambs from sires selected based on high RFI breeding values. We concluded that in meat sheep, RFI is a heritable trait that is genetically independent of post-weaning growth and body composition traits. A one-generation divergent selection based on RFI breeding values highlighted that substantial gains in feeding costs can be expected in selection schemes for meat sheep breeds.