COLUMBIA - Farmers always want their cattle to be as big as possible. But some cattle eat more than they're worth.
MU researchers are raising cattle by finding the best eaters. With higher corn prices, feed efficiency is a concern for many farmers. So MU Animal Science Professor Monty Kerley figured out a way to determine which heifers can grow big and cost less to feed.
"By selecting for efficiency, we'll wind up with cows in the herd that require less forage, less land area, and produce calves," Kerley said.
The system works by using an antenna that runs along the top of a food chamber. The antenna then picks up on a sensor on the cows' ears so the researchers know which individual cow is eating at the moment. The system also has a weight bar, which weighs the entire food chamber every few seconds, so the researchers know how much the cows just ate.
"The green bars represent feed bunks where an animal is not eating at this particular time and then the red columns show bunks where an animal does have his head in a bunk and is consuming feed," Kerley said.
Researchers also collect data on bulls. Kerley hopes to breed the best bulls with the best heifers to produce calves that consume less food, but produce more meat. MU has been collecting feed efficiency data for years, but just in the last month opened its services to private cattle farmers.