Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Every Tool on the Belt

Written by Jackson Barry.
Canton, MO, Canton FFA, Shamrock 4-H in Clark County

To me, being a beef breeder in the 21st century means using every tool on the belt of the cattle industry. The goal? Produce the highest quality, most efficient cattle. Genetics is our biggest asset, because even the best management cannot overcome inferior quality. I will elaborate on the many potentials for higher production and profit through better genetics, record keeping, use of technology, and effective management.

First, genetics. We can and will select those cattle who produce the most for the least. To be more specific, instead of looking at output per cow, we must look at output per unit of land, as in pounds of beef that make it to the rail compared with acres used. The fact is, a larger cow will often produce more than her smaller contemporary. However, if we step back and see the big picture, we can run more moderate sized cattle on a given pasture than larger cows. Also, it has been proven that smaller cows have the capacity to wean a higher percentage of their body weight. So per unit of land, we may conclude that smaller cows can produce more pounds of beef, and lighter weight cattle attain a higher price per pound so the benefits are compounded.

An additional genetic strategy we must take is planned cross breeding. Economists will tell you there is no such thing as a free lunch, but they’ve apparently never raised crossbred cattle. Crossbred stock have the best production in the least heritable traits, namely fertility. In the case of a crossbred market animal, it will outgrow its peers on the same feed and exhibit superior health. In the case of the crossbred cow she will, on average, wean approximately 20% more compared to her straight bred counterpart. Additionally, longevity is a strong quality of the crossbred cow, meaning she may remain productive for additional years. If it takes $1500 to raise a heifer, and $500 to feed and vaccinate her through her life as a cow, she will become profitable at around six years old. The cross bred cow (weaning more) will come profitable sooner and have a higher first years profit. On average they will remain productive two extra years meaning more profit in the lifetime of a cow. Considering crossbred cows re-breed earlier and more often this disparity could potentially be larger.  To further illustrate the value of cross breeding, pretend we operate two herds of 100 cows for one century, one of purebreds and one of F1 cows bred to a third breed. This will be ignoring inflation, based on $800 per weaned calf per straight bred cows, and 20% higher value of weaned calves for crossbred cattle. Over the course of this time the straight bred cattle will incur $300,000 more in expenses (8 year vs. 10 year life) and the crossbred cattle will produce $1.4 million more in revenue. Divided back out this means $170 more per cow per year. Free lunch after all.

Keeping track of actual production and losses per cow paints a clearer picture of which cows are truly driving the profit in our herds. In the future, selection must be based on indexes and must include a big picture view, rather than selecting one trait such as growth or milk. Selecting either of these traits alone will produce animals inferior in the other category. Indexes can show which animals best combine traits and which compare favorably with their peers.

This idea of terminal vs. maternal brings us to our next topic: technology. Artificial insemination allows producers to import outside or superior genetics selectively, affordably, and easily. An even better option is sexed semen. A producer could utilize sexed heifer semen to breed replacements and clean up bulls with strong carcass merit and propensity for growth. This gives us the best of both worlds, a group of heifers to keep, and a group of calves to feed out for our consumer base. Innovations and benefits that pertain to artificial insemination and embryo transfer are numerous and have profit potential. We can also use these technologies to breed cattle that are more efficient and thus have a lower impact on the environment. I look for assisted reproduction to become an even more integral part of our industry as time goes on.

Lastly, management will play a large part in our ability to continue to produce more and more cattle on ever shrinking acres due to losses to residential developments and row crop production. I believe that management techniques such as intensive rotational grazing, tighter calving windows, low stress handling techniques and low stress working facilities are the way of the future. Research shows we can run at least 50% more cattle per acre on good rotational grazing systems, and in some cases, more. In addition to higher productivity of pasture, we allow the grass time to rest and regrow. Steep pastures will go without cattle for periods of time, reducing erosion.

A tighter calving window results in more calves of a uniform age and size which are more efficient to feed and will earn a premium when it is time to sell them. This keeps buyers happy and production of beef fast. The most recent Genex Catalog contains an article stating cows are most susceptible to miscarrying or aborting a pregnancy during the early portion of the first trimester. Unfortunately, this is when many cattle receive vaccinations, are affected by pinkeye and endure heat stress. What can we do to solve this? Heat stress is unavoidable but stress from human contact certainly can be prevented. Simply improving the corral used to sort and handle the livestock can play a big part in less stress, as no running or yelling is required. Supplements like Multimin®90 boost micro-nutrients and can help strengthen stock for periods of stress like summer.

My goal, long term, is for all producers to have one singular goal: efficiently produce high quality cattle with a lesser impact on the environment and consumer checkbooks. Not everyone will get there in the same way, but that is one of the great things about the United States: private ownership and individual producers stimulate innovation. This is where I believe the beef industry is heading in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 ReproGene Sessions Announced

Written by Duane Dailey

Beef-cow herd owners will learn new ways to raise better calves at three University of Missouri meetings in March. The sessions lead producers from proven breeding to new uses of DNA.

MU Extension animal scientists David Patterson and Jared Decker will lead the ReproGene Meetings.

Management of fixed-time artificial insemination allows more live calves and more uniform calf crops.

New DNA tools make rapid advances in beef quality. Genomics allow breeders to predict traits of the next generation.

Traditionally, breeders use expected progeny differences (EPDs). Now, new EPDs add DNA data. Pedigrees and production testing are still used; however, genetically-enhanced EPDs give more accuracy. A simple DNA test with blood or hair samples replaces years of production testing.

With GE-EPDs, the added DNA speeds improving traits, whether for maternal or meat market ends.

Recent high premiums at packing plants signal demand for more high-quality beef. The USDA prime/choice price spread is the new guide to follow.

Consignors at fall and spring Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer sales learn the value of maternal genetics. Heifers bred by fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) bring higher prices than bull-bred heifers. AI allows use of top proven sires on any farm.

Repeat buyers want more SMS heifers. With heifer breeding management, conception rates rise and death losses drop. Adding genetics improves quality.
Meeting times, places and local MU Extension livestock specialists:
  • Mar. 8. Joplin Regional Stockyards, Carthage. Eldon Cole, Mount Vernon, 417-466-3102.
  • Mar. 21. Mills Center, Laclede County Fairgrounds, Lebanon. Andy McCorkill, Buffalo, 417-345-7551.
  • Mar. 26. Recklein Auditorium, 202 N. Smith St., Cuba. Ted Cunningham, Salem, 573-729-3196.
The events run from 4 p.m. registration with program at 4:30 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. with a farmer panel at 8:15 p.m.

Patterson, MU Extension reproduction specialist, will lead with a review of fixed-time AI for heifers and cows. He will tell of improved breeding of 2-year olds.

Jordan Thomas, MU research assistant, will tell of his work using sex-sorted semen and split-time AI. New protocols improve conceptions.

Jared Decker, MU Extension geneticist, gives basics of EPDs and genomic predictions. Then he will tell how genomics increase profits.

With Decker's help, a new class of heifers has joined the SMS heifer sales. Heifers with GE-EPDs are called Show-Me Plus. Those rank above Tier Two heifers in price premiums.

The best part will be farmer panels, Decker says. Area farmers tell how they combine use of AI and genomics.

"We have lots of experience out there with Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers," he adds. "We extend that resource. You don't have to be a SMS member to benefit from those protocols.

Taking a DNA test at birth provides a lifetime benefit in a cow herd. DNA does not change with age. The use of genomic tests was greatly simplified with the development of indexes. A producer does not have to look at a lot of different EPDs. Now a dollar value is added to each trait and those are combined into a monetary value. All animals in a breed, or a herd, can be ranked. That makes culling decisions easier.

"A big failure would be to buy the tests and not use the data," Decker says. "There is zero gain in doing that. No profit potential."



Monday, January 29, 2018

Mizzou Recruiting Beef Cattle Extension Specialist

Position: Assistant Extension Professor of Animal Sciences, non-tenure track 100% Extension

Responsibilities: The person is expected to develop a nationally recognized education and engagement program in cow-calf production with emphasis on reproduction and management of the beef cow. This includes training regional extension livestock specialists, veterinarians and veterinary students, and allied industry personnel, interacting with cattle producers and agribusiness firms, and providing support for the National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics in Beef Cattle.
Qualifications: The individual must have a Ph.D. in Animal Science and an extensive knowledge of the beef cattle industry. Experience with and a strong interest in working with beef cattle producers and allied industries is necessary. Must be able to interact and collaborate effectively with faculty in reproductive biology and genomics.
Location: The Division of Animal Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
Salary: Commensurate with training and experience.
Application Procedure: Please apply online via Human Resources https://hrs.missouri.edu/find-a-job. Applications will be accepted until position is filled. Applications should include a personal resume, a narrative summary outlining goals and qualifications, transcripts and names of three persons who may be contacted by the committee to request letters of reference.



Benefit Eligibility: This position is eligible for University benefits. The University offers a comprehensive benefits package, including medical, dental and vision plans, retirement, and educational fee discounts. For additional information on University benefits, please visit the Faculty & Staff Benefits website at http://www.umsystem.edu/totalrewards/benefits.
Equal Employment Opportunity: The University of Missouri is an equal access, equal opportunity, affirmative action employer that is fully committed to achieving a diverse faculty and staff. For more information, call the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resource Services/Affirmative Action officer at 573-882-4256.
The University of Missouri is fully committed to achieving the goal of a diverse and inclusive academic community of faculty, staff and students. We seek individuals who are committed to this goal and our core campus values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. To request ADA accommodations, please call Human Resource Services at 573-882-7976. TTY users, please call through Relay Missouri, 1-800-RELAY (735-2966) or en Español at 1-800-520-7309. MU makes available to applicants a security report of crimes that occurred on campus over the previous three years. For a copy of this report, contact the University Police Department at (573) 882-5923 or access their web site at: http://www.mupolice.com/.

Apply for the position here:
https://erecruit.umsystem.edu/psp/tamext/COLUM/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM_FL.HRS_CG_SEARCH_FL.GBL?Page=HRS_APP_JBPST_FL&Action=U&SiteId=9&FOCUS=Applicant&SiteId=9&JobOpeningId=25502&PostingSeq=1

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Searching for Environmental Adaptation in Beef Cattle

By Troy Rowan and Jared Decker, PhD, University of Missouri
Reprinted with permission of the ASA SimTalk magazine, from the Late Fall 2017 issue.

The United States is home to diverse climates and geographies. Over the past 150 years, beef cattle have found their way into nearly every one of these unique environments. Some cattle thrive in particular environments, while others struggle. Animals well-suited to an environment performed well and are selected to stay in herds. Poorly-suited animals are culled. As a result, selection occurred on traits that improved cattle performance in different environments. Now, resulting from this selection, there may be a significant amount of region-specific genetic diversity, even within the same breed. In a USDA-funded research project, we are looking to find the DNA variants responsible for this environmental adaption. We will then use these variants to create geographic region-specific genomic predictions.

Local Adaptation
Animals that are poorly adapted to their local environment are less efficient and more expensive to maintain. Most previous local adaptation research has focused on heat tolerance in Bos indicus influenced cattle. Work has only begun on identifying the genetic components of issues like cold tolerance, hair shedding, altitude adaptability, tolerance to pathogens, and other region-specific stressors in Bos taurus cattle populations.

The potential economic impact of this research to the beef cattle industry is substantial. A 1993 study predicted that animals poorly adapted to toxic fescue cost the beef industry close to $1 billion per year. Toxic fescue tolerance is only one slice of the local adaptation pie. Other environmental stressors have similar economic impacts. If breeders can tap into genetic potential for tolerance to environmental stressors and animals are optimized for production in their specific geographic regions, the beef industry could save billions of dollars each year.

Detecting Region-Specific Selection
Much like natural selection in wild populations, region-specific selection occurs on existing genetic variation that may be beneficial in one environment, but neutral or unfavorable in another. Over several generations, this beneficial variation becomes more common within a regional population. Put simply, animals that are well-adapted to their regional environments produce successful offspring that remain in the gene pool. Poorly-adapted animals in most cases produce poorly and are culled from their respective herds. These poorly-adapted animals have minimal contributions to future generations. Advancements in genomic tools have made it possible for this diversity to be categorized. We can compare differences between regional populations on the DNA base pair level.


 


Figure 1. Hypothetical example of local adaptation to different regions of the United States.

The example in Figure 1 illustrates how region-specific genomic changes are detected.

1) A genetic variant (in this example a SNP) is introduced into two regional populations at the same frequency (1 in every 10 animals will have it).
2) In one environment (Missouri), this SNP has a favorable impact on cattle performance. In another (Florida), it has no effect.
3) Over many generations, cattle possessing the favorable SNP in Missouri are preferentially selected. The SNP’s neutral effect in Florida means that no selection occurs on cattle with the variant.
4) Selection over many generations in Missouri drives up the frequency of the SNP in the population, while it stays the same in Florida.
5) Genomic analyses compare hundreds of thousands of markers and their frequencies between populations. Variants showing major differences in frequency between different regional populations are likely under selection.

Ongoing Work
At the University of Missouri, we are using this idea to identify genetic variation within breed populations that could affect how well adapted a cow is to her particular local environment. With the help of the American Simmental Association, and two other major breed associations, we have assembled a geographically diverse set of over 37,000 animals with genotypes. We will use these samples to start exploring region-specific selection. Using 30-year normal values for temperature, precipitation, and elevation, we have divided the United States into 9 distinct “climate zones” (Figure 2). Animals are divided into subpopulations based on their climate zone. Tests for selection will be applied to see if certain genetic variants are being selected in particular regions, but not in others. A geographic distribution of the Simmental animals in the study and their climate zones is shown in Figure 3. Preliminary data analysis has identified a number of DNA variants (SNPs) in Simmental populations that appear to be under selection in specific regions of the U.S.
 

Figure 2. Nine climate regions of the Continental United States developed based on 30-year normal temperature, precipitation, and elevation. 


Figure 3. Geographic distributions of Simmental animals from the study (9,950 total). Each dot represents a unique zip code. Dot color corresponds with the climate zone in which that zip code resides. Dot size is representative of the number of animals at each zip code. 


Upon discovering variants that are under region-specific selection, we not only gain an understanding of the biology behind local adaptation, but we can begin using these SNPs to train region-specific genomic predictions. These tools have the potential to re-rank animals based on the region in which they will be used. This will provide producers with the most tailored predictors of how an animal’s offspring might perform in their local environment. Beef cattle are subject to the full brunt of environmental stressors. Controlling a beef cow’s environment on range or pasture is impossible. But, ensuring that our animals are genetically well-equipped for their environment is essential.


About the Authors:
Troy Rowan is a PhD student at the University of Missouri. Troy attended the Beef Improvement Federation Symposium in Athens, Georgia in June of 2017 with funds from an ASA Walton-Berry Award to the University of Missouri. Jared Decker is a researcher and beef genetics extension specialist at the University of Missouri.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Youth Win Essay Contest: “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?”

We are happy to announce the winners of our national youth essay contest.
Youth responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?”

1st: Grace Erickson, Bolivar, MO, Bolivar FFA, Woodlawn 4-H, Missouri Junior Simmental Association, American Junior Simmental Association
See her essay at BEEF Daily.

2nd: Jackson Barry, Canton, MO, Canton FFA, Shamrock 4-H in Clark County

3rd: Jacob Jones, Stillwater, OK, Stillwater FFA, International Junior Brangus Breeders Association, Oklahoma Junior Cattlemen's Association

4th: Brooke Falk, Harveyville, KS, North American Limousin Juniors Association

5th: Brooklynn Salo, Laramie, WY,  Snowy Range FFA, Albany County 4-H

6th: Wesley Denton, Blue Rapids, KS, Valley Heights FFA, National Junior Hereford Association, Wide Awake 4-H Club

7th: Garrett Stanfield, Manchester, OH, American Junior Simmental Association


Grace Erickson's essay will be appearing on the BEEF magazine website. Watch for other winning essays here at A Steak in Genomics.

We look forward to watching these youth become leaders in the beef industry.

We will soon be announcing our 2018 essay contest.

Special thanks to our essay sponsors BEEF magazine, Zoetis, and GeneSeek.

This educational program and essay contest are part of the "Identifying Local Adaptation and Creating Region-Specific Genomic Predictions in Beef Cattle" funded by the USDA-NIFA, Grant No. 2016-68004-24827.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Transferring Technology: Division of Animal Sciences receives grant to develop The National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics (NCARG)

Written by Logan Jackson
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) boasts many strengths, including its vast research and work with beef cattle reproduction and genetics. The faculty, who have responsibilities not only in research, but also in teaching, extension and economic development, are experts in taking their findings and sharing them with farmers, ranchers and the Missouri community as a whole.

beef research and teaching farm_south farm_summer_0013
With the help of a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the division will be able to expand on those leadership opportunities.

The grant, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will be used to develop The National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics (NCARG) in Beef Cattle. The goal of NCARG will be to promote the economic impact of the technologies Mizzou Animal Sciences faculty have developed and are using every day. The focus is on giving farmers and ranchers the answer to the question – “What is the return on investment if I invest in reproductive or genomic technologies?”

“We’re not just trying to fill people’s heads with new knowledge – it’s more about lighting a fire,” said Jared Decker, an Extension beef geneticist at Mizzou. “We’re focused on helping farmers and ranchers understand the technology, but, more than that, to trust the technology and identify ways they can use it. We want to educate producers and help them take that next leap.”

The multi-disciplinary grant is in partnership with the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. NCARG will have a big focus on continuing education for veterinarians, including educational and training opportunities for veterinary students, graduate students, farmers, ranchers and allied industry professionals.

“This center again underscores the collaborative environment between schools and programs that exist at Mizzou to advance training for veterinary and animal science students, and research that benefits Missouri stakeholders,” said College of Veterinary Medicine Interim Dean Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology).

The idea for a center of this type has been discussed amongst faculty in the Division of Animal Sciences for the past few years. David Patterson and Mike Smith, both professors of reproductive physiology, have taught numerous full-day sessions at American Veterinary Medical Association meetings. With all of the programs in place at MU, Patterson and Smith had many discussions on ways to share that research with not only Missouri, but on a national level.

David Patterson, Division of Animal Sciences
“Our reproductive and genomic research is so closely tied – and both are great strengths within our division,” Patterson said. “A center of this nature is the logical next step for our division. With beef cattle, there is so much technology that could help operations. We want to help transfer that technology to industry participants at all levels.”

Patterson has led the reproductive extension work in the Division of Animal Sciences, with Decker leading the genetic extension efforts.

There will be a big focus on the economic impact of using these technologies as well. Scott Brown, an assistant extension professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, will lend his expertise in agricultural and applied economics to the center.

“The returns available to farmers from adopting these technologies will ultimately drive their use, and it is critical we show the increase in profitability that can result from integrating reproductive and genetic technologies in commercial herds,” Brown said.

NCARG already has received numerous letters of support from veterinary medical professionals, U.S. beef breed associations, pharmaceutical houses, genomic testing companies, industry consultants, the artificial insemination industry, branded beef and feeder calf programs, and state agencies, organizations and companies.

“I think it really reflects how people value research in reproduction and genetics at Mizzou,” Decker said. “I think they value the extension and educational expertise at Mizzou as well. The Division of Animal Sciences has worked extremely hard to build relationships with each of these organizations and groups, and it’s exciting to see them offer their full support.”

NCARG is still in the beginning stages of development. The group is seeking a location to house NCARG and is continuing to search for partnerships.

“We’re taking the model we’ve developed in Missouri over the past 20 years and making it a national center,” Decker said. “We’re hoping to spread the model of integrating research and extension in genetics, reproduction and economics – and putting that together. That’s worked really well in Missouri. Now, let’s spread it nationally.”

Along with Patterson, Decker, Smith and Brown, Bill Lamberson, Scott Poock, Thomas Spencer and Jeremy Taylor were part of the development of the grant.

Also, see coverage from Brownfield Ag News "MU: NATIONAL CENTER ON BEEF REPRODUCTION AND GENOMICS". 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

In Memory of Dr. Richard Willham

Dr. Richard Willham passed away the weekend of December 31, 2017.

Dr. Richard Willham was a leader in the development of EPDs.

Watch this video produced by Angus TV.


Also, visit the American Society of Animal Science Taking Stock blog to read more about Dr. Willham's life and work.