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Abstract

Residual feed intake (RFI) is a measure of feed efficiency in beef cattle. It is a moderately heritable trait, and cattle with low RFI consume less feed than expected at the same level of growth relative to their high RFI contemporaries. Selection for RFI is a relatively new genetic improvement tool in beef cattle to reduce the cost of production, and currently has a low level of adoption in the industry. Selection for low RFI is associated with reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, hence could play a role in any carbon trading scheme implemented in Australia. For any GHG reduction protocol to be acceptable in a carbon trading/offset environment, it needs to follow United Nations IPCC guidelines, be based on science, be quantifiable and be auditable. The beef industry already has quality assurance systems in place for RFI that can be fine-tuned to meet these criteria. Scientific information currently available is adequate for the development of GHG emission reduction protocols for cattle raised for slaughter. Selection for RFI also has an impact on GHG emissions from the breeding herd. However, information currently available lacks the degree of accuracy needed for protocol development. It is therefore recommended that funding be provided to continue the research on the relationships among RFI, cow feed intake and maternal productivity traits.

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