Number:               61100002

Lead Contractor:              Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board

Other Contractors:           Scottish Rural University College

Start & end dates:             01 January 2015 – 31 December 2018

Beef Feed Efficiency Programme Logo










The Beef Feed Efficiency Programme is now entering its legacy phase. As of January 2019, the feed intake facilities set up by AHDB and SRUC will be available for performance recording of commercial or pedigree cattle for genetic improvement  or other trial work. More information on the facilities available can be found here.

The first phase of the project also allowed the opportunity to test and refine protocols for feed intake recording on commercial farms. The revised protocols are available for anyone who wishes to undertake such testing here.

To discuss opportunities for use, please email Natalie Cormack or ring on 07866 934563.



 Cattle using Hoko bins at SRUCThe Problem:

A Defra funded scoping study (IF0207) showed that selection of purebred beef cattle using the currently available selection index tools will deliver a substantial positive impact on the economic and environmental sustainability of beef cattle production in the UK.

Genetic improvement plays an important role in developing ruminant systems that will be sustainable in the future, and produce food in an environmentally-friendly manner. Also, genetic improvement of livestock is a particularly cost-effective technology, producing permanent and cumulative changes in performance.

Recording feed intake in order to include a measure of resource use efficiency into existing selection indices, is expected to increase the realised benefits in farm level profit by around 39% and in GHG reduction by around 22%.  There is evidence of genetic variation in the efficiency with cattle convert the resources within a system into animal product. There is a need to understand what variation exists between genotypes within breeds in the efficiency with which animals utilize nutrients and how efficiency traits can best be incorporated into breeding programmes.

Cattle on test at SRUC beef research unit








Aims and Objectives:

  1. To establish a consortium of stakeholders in the UK beef industry, including academia and governments, and complete the scoping and design of the project
  2. To undertake on-farm animal-based studies to devise, test and validate selection and breeding objectives for feed efficiency
  3. To develop protocols for recording data necessary for selection for feed efficiency at a national scale
  4. To establish a network for national feed intake recording
  5. To undertake genetic analysis and determine selection criteria using data collected

To establish appropriate business model to ensure an on-going national programme of feed intake recording

Natalie Cormack (Delivery Manager) and Alison Glasgow (British Limousin Cattle Society) at SRUC Beef Research Unit









The main elements of the project will be:

  • Agreeing industry-wide protocols for:

measuring feed efficiency
taking and storing tissue samples for potential future genomic analysis

  • Defining a “blueprint for feed efficiency recording facilities on commercial farms
  • Installation of facilities (up to 72 individual feeders) for measuring feed efficiency on commercial finishing units
    Collection of data on around 1800 cattle during the project
  • Determination of genetic parameters for efficiency traits in one breed. This is the basic analysis required for the inclusion of the efficiency traits in breeding programmes
  • Establishing a network for national feed intake recording
  • Developing a set of possible business models for the continued recording of feed efficiency after the project period


Project Update


Open Days: Most Recent 

4 and 6 December 2017:


 Press Release


 News Updates