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LiGAPS-Beef, a mechanistic model to explore potential and feed-limited beef production 1: model description and illustration

  • A. van der Linden (a1) (a2), G. W. J. van de Ven (a2), S. J. Oosting (a1), M. K. van Ittersum (a2) and I. J. M. de Boer (a1)...

Abstract

The expected increase in the global demand for livestock products calls for insight in the scope to increase actual production levels across the world. This insight can be obtained by using theoretical concepts of production ecology. These concepts distinguish three production levels for livestock: potential (i.e. theoretical maximum) production, which is defined by genotype and climate only; feed-limited production, which is limited by feed quantity and quality; and actual production. The difference between the potential or limited production and the actual production is the yield gap. The objective of this paper, the first in a series of three, is to present a mechanistic, dynamic model simulating potential and feed-limited production for beef cattle, which can be used to assess yield gaps. A novelty of this model, named LiGAPS-Beef (Livestock simulator for Generic analysis of Animal Production Systems – Beef cattle), is the identification of the defining factors (genotype and climate) and limiting factors (feed quality and available feed quantity) for cattle growth by integrating sub-models on thermoregulation, feed intake and digestion, and energy and protein utilisation. Growth of beef cattle is simulated at the animal and herd level. The model is designed to be applicable to different beef production systems across the world. Main model inputs are breed-specific parameters, daily weather data, information about housing, and data on feed quality and quantity. Main model outputs are live weight gain, feed intake and feed efficiency (FE) at the animal and herd level. Here, the model is presented, and its use is illustrated for Charolais and Brahman × Shorthorn cattle in France and Australia. Potential and feed-limited production were assessed successfully, and we show that FE of herds is highest for breeds most adapted to the local climate conditions. LiGAPS-Beef also identified the factors that define and limit growth and production of cattle. Hence, we argue the model has scope to be used as a tool for the assessment and analysis of yield gaps in beef production systems.

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