Skip to main content Accessibility help

Multibreed comparisons of British cattle. Variation in body weight, growth rate and food intake

  • R. B. Thiessen (a1), Eva Hnizdo (a1), D. A. G. Maxwell (a1), D. Gibson (a1) and C. S. Taylor (a1)...


A multibreed cattle experiment involving 25 British breeds was set up to study genetic variation between breeds and genetic inter-breed relationships for a wide spectrum of traits in order to examine the problems of between-breed testing and selection. The experimental design is described and results on between-breed variation are presented for four traits.

All animals were housed indoors and from 12 weeks of age were given a single complete pelleted diet ad libitum through a system of Calan-Broadbent electronic gates. Females were mated to produce one purebred and three crossbred calves, which were reared to slaughter in order to measure the efficiency of the cow-calf unit of production.

Results based on a total of 292 animals, with an average of 12 per breed, are presented for body weight, cumulated voluntary food intake, daily weight gain and daily food intake over the age range from 12 to 72 weeks. The 25 breed-mean curves for body weight and cumulated food intake displayed a remarkably uniform pattern of rankings at all ages and the rankings were very similar for both traits.

The multibreed design used was effective in estimating between-breed variation as a proportion of total variation for the four traits examined. After approximately 1 year of age, the proportion of variation between breeds was approximately 0·70 for body weight and 0·60 for cumulated voluntary food intake. Changes in these traits could therefore be brought about more effectively by selection between breeds rather than within breeds. For average daily weight gain measured over 12-week intervals, between-breed selection was estimated to be most effective in the period of maximum growth rate between 6 and 9 months of age, when between-breed variation was 0·52 of the total. For average daily food intake, measured over 12-week intervals, between-breed selection was likely to be effective beyond 6 months of age, when the proportion of between-breed variation plateaued at 0·48.

At all ages, the coefficient of genetic variation between breeds was approximately 0·14 for body weight and daily gain, and remarkably constant at approximately 0·12 for both daily and cumulated food intake. It is suggested that, for growth and intake traits, the genetic variances within and between breeds remain proportional to each other at all ages.



Hide All
Baker, H. K., Bech Andersen, B., Colleau, J., Langholz, H., Legoshin, G., Minkema, D. and Southgate, J. 1976. Cattle breed comparison and crossbreeding trials in Europe; a survey prepared by a working party of the European Association for Animal Production. Livestock Prod. Sci. 3: 111.
Brinks, J. S., Clark, R. T., Kieffer, N. M. and Urick, J. J. 1964. Estimates of genetic, environmental and phenotypic parameters in range Hereford females.J. Anim. Sci. 23: 711716.
Broadbent, P. J., McIntosh, J. A. R. and Spence, A. 1970. The evaluation of a device for feeding group-housed animals individually. Anim. Prod. 12: 245252.
Cartwright, T. C. 1970. Selection criteria for beef cattle for the future. J. Anim. Sci. 30: 706711
Fisher, R. A. 1946. Statistical Methods for Research Workers. 10th ed.Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh.
Fitzhugh, H. A. Jr and Taylor, St C. S. 1971.Genetic analysis of degree of maturity. J. Anim. Sci. 33: 717725.
Gibson, D. 1969. The development of a complete diet for cattle. Rep. Anim. Breed. Res. Orgn, pp. 1924.
Harvey, W. R. 1977. User's Guide for LSML76. Mixed Model Least-squares and Maximum Likelihood Computer Program. Ohio State University, Columbus (Mimeograph).
Holmes, W. 1973. Size of animal in relation to productivity. Nutritional aspects. Proc. Br. Soc. Anim. Prod. (New Ser.) 2: 2734.
Jinks, J. L. and Broadhurst, P. L. 1963. Diallel analysis of litter size and body weight in rats. Heredity 18: 319336.
Laster, D. B., Smith, G. M., and Gregory, K. E. 1976. Characterization of biological types of cattle. IV. Postweaning growth and puberty of heifers. J. Anim. Sci. 43: 6370.
Mason, I. L. 1971. Comparative beef performance of the large cattle breeds of Western Europe. Anim. Breed. Abstr. 39: 129.
Maxwell, D. A. G. 1979. The management of experimental data at ABRO. Rep. Anim. Breed. Res. Orgn, pp. 38.
Meat and Livestock Commission. 1981. Pedigree beef cattle averages 1979–81. MLC Beef Improv. Serv., Data Sh. 81/7. Meat and Livestock Commission, Bletchley, Milton Keynes.
Monteiro, L. S. and Falconer, D. S. 1966. Compensatory growth and sexual maturity in mice. Anim. Prod. 8: 179192.
Roy, J. H. B. 1980. The Calf. 4th ed.Butterworth, London.
Roy, J. H. B., Gilles, C. M. and Shotton, S. M. 1975. Factors affecting first oestrus in cattle and their effects on early breeding. In The Early Calving of Heifers and its Impact on Beef Production, (ed. Tayler, J. C.), pp. 128142. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.
Smith, G. M., Laster, D. B., Cundiff, L. V. and Gregory, K. E. 1976. Characterization of biological types of cattle. II. Postweaning growth and feed efficiency of steers. J. Anim. Sci. 43: 3747.
Taylor, St C. S. 1971. The effect of body size on production efficiency in cattle. Annls Génét. Set. anim. 3: 8598.
Taylor, St C. S. 1973. Genetic differences in milk production in relation to mature body weight. Proc.Br. Soc. Anim. Prod. (New Ser.) 2: 1525.
Taylor, St C. S. 1976a. Multibreed designs. 1.Variation between breeds. Anim. Prod. 23: 133144.
Taylor, St C. S. 1976b. Multibreed designs. 2. Genetic variation within and between breeds. Anim. Prod. 23: 145154.
Taylor, St C. S. 1976C. Crossbreeding design of ABRO's multibreed experiment. In Crossbreeding Experiments and Strategy of Beef Utilisation to Increase Beef Production (ed. Mason, I. L. and W. Pabst), pp.377398. Commission of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
Us Department of Health, Education and Welfare. 1966. Standard nomenclature of veterinary diseases and operations. Publs U.S. publ. Hlth Serv., No. 1466.
Wainman, F. W., Smith, J. S. and Dewey, P. J. S. 1975. The nutritive value for sheep of ruminant Diet AA6, a complete cobbed diet containing 30% barley straw. J. agric. Sci., Camb. 84: 109111.
Webster, A. J. F. 1974. Heat loss from cattle with particular emphasis on the effects of cold. In Heat Loss from Animals and Man (ed. Monteith, J. L. and Mount, L. E.), pp. 205231. Butterworth, London.

Multibreed comparisons of British cattle. Variation in body weight, growth rate and food intake

  • R. B. Thiessen (a1), Eva Hnizdo (a1), D. A. G. Maxwell (a1), D. Gibson (a1) and C. S. Taylor (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed