Approximately 70% of the cost of beef production is impacted by dietary intake. Maximizing production efficiency of beef cattle requires not only genetic selection to maximize feed efficiency (i.e., residual feed intake (RFI)), but also adequate nutrition throughout all stages of growth and development to maximize efficiency of growth and reproductive capacity, even during gestation. RFI as a measure of feed efficiency in cattle has been recently accepted and used in the beef industry, but the effect of selection for RFI upon the dynamics of gestation has not been extensively studied, especially in the context of fluctuating energy supply to the dam and fetus. Nutrient restriction during gestation has been shown to negatively affect postnatal growth and development as well as fertility of beef cattle offspring. This, when combined with the genetic potential for RFI, may significantly affect energy partitioning in the offspring and subsequently important performance traits. In this review, we discuss: 1) the importance of RFI as a measure of feed efficiency and how it can affect other economic traits in beef cattle; 2) the influence of prenatal nutrition on physiological phenotypes in calves; 3) the benefits of investigating the interaction of genetic selection for RFI and prenatal nutrition; 4) how metabolomics, transcriptomics, and epigenomics have been employed to investigate the underlying biology associated with prenatal nutrition, RFI, or their interactions in beef cattle; and 5) how the integration of omics information is adding a level of deeper understanding of the genetic architecture of phenotypic traits in cattle.
Keywords: RFI; beef cattle; feed efficiency; omics; prenatal nutrition.
Copyright © 2021 Foroutan, Wishart and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for the contribution of Carolyn Fitzsimmons.