Eating Time as a Genetic Indicator of Methane Emissions and Feed Efficiency in Australian Maternal Composite Sheep
journal contributionposted on 12.05.2022, 06:19 authored by Boris Julian SEPULVEDA MOLINABoris Julian SEPULVEDA MOLINA, Stephanie K Muir, Sunduimijid Bolormaa, Matthew I Knight, Ralph Behrendt, Iona M MacLeod, Jennie PryceJennie Pryce, Hans DaetwylerHans Daetwyler
Previous studies have shown reduced enteric methane emissions (ME) and residual feed intake (RFI) through the application of genomic selection in ruminants. The objective of this study was to evaluate feeding behaviour traits as genetic indicators for ME and RFI in Australian Maternal Composite ewes using data from an automated feed intake facility. The feeding behaviour traits evaluated were the amount of time spent eating per day (eating time; ETD; min/day) and per visit (eating time per event; ETE; min/event), daily number of events (DNE), event feed intake (EFI; g/event) and eating rate (ER; g/min). Genotypes and phenotypes of 445 ewes at three different ages (post-weaning, hogget, and adult) were used to estimate the heritability of ME, RFI, and the feeding behaviour traits using univariate genomic best linear unbiased prediction models. Multivariate models were used to estimate the correlations between these traits and within each trait at different ages. The response to selection was evaluated for ME and RFI with direct selection models and indirect models with ETE as an indicator trait, as this behaviour trait was a promising indicator based on heritability and genetic correlations. Heritabilities were between 0.12 and 0.18 for ME and RFI, and between 0.29 and 0.47 for the eating behaviour traits. In our data, selecting for more efficient animals (low RFI) would lead to higher methane emissions per day and per kg of dry matter intake. Selecting for more ETE also improves feed efficiency but results in more methane per day and per kg dry matter intake. Based on our results, ETE could be evaluated as an indicator trait for ME and RFI under an index approach that allows simultaneous selection for improvement in emissions and feed efficiency. Selecting for ETE may have a tremendous impact on the industry, as it may be easier and cheaper to obtain than feed intake and ME data. As the data were collected using individual feeding units, the findings on this research should be validated under grazing conditions.