The objectives of this study were to quantify the phenotypic variation in residual feed intake (RFI) in pregnant beef heifers offered a grass silage diet and to characterize their productivity. Seventy-three pregnant (mean gestation d 198, SD = 27 d) Simmental and Simmental × Holstein-Friesian heifers (mean initial BW 548, SD = 47.5 kg) were offered grass silage ad libitum. Heifer DMI, BW, BCS, skeletal measurements, ultrasonic fat and muscle depth, visual muscularity score, rumen fermentation, total tract digestibility, blood metabolite and hematology variables, feeding, and activity behavior were measured during an 84-d feed intake study. After parturition calf birth weight, calving difficulty, cow serum IgG, hematology variables, and calf humoral immune status were measured. In a subset of cows (n = 28), DMI, milk yield and various body composition variables were also measured approximately 3 wk postpartum. Phenotypic RFI was calculated for each animal as the difference between actual DMI and expected DMI. Expected DMI was computed for each animal by regressing average daily DMI on conceptus-adjusted mean BW(0.75) and conceptus-adjusted ADG over an 84-d period. Within breed, heifers were ranked by RFI into low (efficient), medium, and high (inefficient) groups by dividing them into thirds. Heifers with high RFI had 8.8 and 17.1% greater (P < 0.001) DMI than medium and low RFI groups, respectively. The RFI groups did not differ in ADG or BW (P > 0.05). Residual feed intake was positively correlated with DMI (r = 0.85) but not with feed conversion ratio, ADG, or BW. The RFI groups did not differ (P > 0.05) in skeletal size, BCS, ultrasonic fat depth, total tract digestibility, calf birth weight, calving difficulty, serum IgG concentrations, or milk yield. Visual muscularity scores, initial test and postpartum ultrasonic muscle depth were negatively correlated with RFI (P < 0.05). Including mean ultrasonic muscle depth into the base RFI regression model increased its R(2) (0.29 to 0.38). Pearson rank correlation between RFI and muscle-adjusted RFI was 0.93. The results show that efficient RFI heifers consumed less feed without any compromise in growth, body composition, or maternal traits measured.