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Exploration of biological markers of feed efficiency in young bulls

Abstract : The efficiency with which ruminants convert feed to desirable products is difficult to measure under normal commercial settings. We explored the use of potential biological markers from easily obtainable samples, that is, blood, hair, and feces, to characterize potential causes of divergent efficiency when considered as residual feed intake (RFI) or feed conversion efficiency (FCE). A total of 54 Charolais bulls, 20 in period 1 and 34 in period 2, were examined for individual dry matter intake (DMI) and growth. Bulls were offered a diet of 70:30 wrapped grass silage to concentrate for 99 d. At the conclusion of the test period, blood samples were collected for the determination of vitamins B2 and B6, and plasma used for the determination of metabolites, natural isotopic 15N abundance (15N NIA, expressed as δ15N ‰) and fractionation (Δ15Nplasma proteins‑diet and Δ13Cplasma proteins‑diet) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Feces were analyzed by NIRS. Bulls were slaughtered at 15−17 months of age and carcass characteristics determined. Bulls were ranked according to RFI with extremes (SD ± 0.5; n = 31) classified as either efficient (Neg-RFI) or inefficient (Pos-RFI). Extreme bulls were then classified for FCE (high vs low FCE), changing the groups. Pos-RFI bulls consumed 14% more feed than Neg-RFI bulls for the same level of weight gain. Low FCE bulls tended to eat more, but had lower weight gains than high FCE bulls. No differences were detected in carcass conformation, fat scores, hot carcass weight, or dressing percentage. Yet, heart and bladder weights were heavier in Pos-RFI, and rumen weight tended to be heavier in Pos-RFI bulls. RFI did not affect bulk 15N or 13C fractionation. A negative correlation was observed between FCE and Δ15Nplasma proteins‑diet. Inefficient bulls (Pos-RFI) had higher δ15N in glycine compared to Neg-RFI bulls. Similarly, metabolomic analysis showed a tendency for concentrations of glycine and sarcosine to be elevated in Pos-RFI bulls, whereas aspartic acid and carnosine tended to be elevated, and serine tended to be lower in High FCE. Among vitamins, only flavin adenine dinucleotide concentration was higher in the blood of bulls with High FCE. These results suggest that the two feed efficiency metrics differ in the underlying mechanisms of metabolism, where RFI is driven by differences in the energetic requirements of visceral organs and the extent of AA catabolism.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 1:21:37 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 30, 2021 - 4:34:05 PM

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Sarah Jade Meale, Diego Morgavi, Isabelle Cassar-Malek, Donato Andueza, Isabelle Ortigues Marty, et al.. Exploration of biological markers of feed efficiency in young bulls. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2017, 65 (45), pp.9817-9827. ⟨10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03503⟩. ⟨hal-02625075⟩

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