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Associations between feed efficiency, sexual maturity and fertility-related measures in young beef bulls

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 14:35 authored by A.B.P. Fontoura, Y.R. Montanholi, M. Diel de Amorim, R.A. Foster, T. Chenier, Stephen Miller
The beef industry has emphasized the improvement of feed utilization, as measured by modeling feed intake through performance traits to calculate residual feed intake (RFI). Evidence supports an inverse relationship between feed efficiency and reproductive function. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship of reproductive assessments and RFI unadjusted (RFIKoch) or adjusted for body composition (RFIus) and the relationship among fertility-related parameters. In total, 34 crossbred bulls were housed together for 112 days of performance evaluation, followed by assessment of scrotum IR imaging, scrotal circumference, testes ultrasonography and semen quality parameters at 377±33.4 days of age. Bulls were slaughtered at 389±34.0 days of age, and analyses of carcass composition, biometrics and histomorphometry of the testis and epididymis were conducted. Bulls were grouped into two subpopulations based on divergence of RFI, and within each RFI model either by including 50% of the population (Halves, high and low RFI, n=17) or 20.6% extremes of the population (Tails, high and low RFI, n=7). The means of productive performance and fertility-related measures were compared through these categories. Pearson’s correlation was calculated among fertility-related measures. In the Halves subpopulation of the RFIus, sperm of low-RFI bulls had decreased progressive motility (47.30% v. 59.90%) and higher abundance of tail abnormalities (4.30% v. 1.80%) than that of high-RFI bulls. In the Tails subpopulation of the RFIKoch, low RFI displayed less variation in the scrotum surface temperature (0.62°C v. 1.16°C), decreased testis echogenicity (175.50 v 198.00 pixels) and larger (60.90 v. 56.80 mm2) but less-developed seminiferous tubules than high-RFI bulls. The evaluation of fertility-related parameters indicated that a higher percentage of immature seminiferous tubules was correlated with occurrence of sperm with distal droplets (r=0.59), a larger temperature variation at the top of the scrotum was correlated with improved sperm progressive motility (r=0.38), a lower occurrence of sperm loose head abnormalities was correlated with larger temperature variation at the lower part of the scrotum (r=−0.43), and a lower minimum testis echogenicity (r=−0.59) and smaller scrotal circumference (r=0.72) were correlated with age. The adjustment for body composition (RFI determination) enabled distinct biological inferences about reproduction and feed efficiency when compared with the non-adjusted model. However, both RFI models and the correlation analysis supported the hypothesis that feed-efficient bulls have features of delayed sexual maturity. Overall, the assessment of fertility-related measurements is important to avoid the improvement of feed efficiency at the expense of reproductive function in young bulls.


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© The Animal Consortium 2015


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


Cambridge University Press

Journal title





Fontoura, A. B., Montanholi, Y. R., Diel de Amorim, M., Foster, R. A., Chenier, T., & Miller, S. P. (2016). Associations between feed efficiency, sexual maturity and fertility-related measures in young beef bulls. Animal, 10(1), 96-105. doi: 10.1017/S1751731115001925

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