Thursday, March 15, 2018

Angus Genetics Inc Releases Foot Score Research EPDs

In January, Angus Genetics, Inc. (AGI) announced the release of research Claw Set and Foot Angle EPDs. The development of a research EPD is the second step towards a production EPD.

This followed research presented in the summer of 2017 which found heritabilities of 0.34 for foot angle and 0.21 for claw set. Estimating heritability (portion of the trait influenced by genetics) is the first step towards a production EPD. This research also found a genetic correlation of 0.22 between the two traits, indicating that both traits need to be reported and analyzed.

Stephen Miller, AGI Director of Genetic Research stated, "“Angus breeders have completed a tremendous amount of data reporting in such a short period of time; this is truly a testament to their commitment toward genetic progress. We are absolutely thrilled to begin the process of rolling this breakthrough out to the membership.”

Kelli Retallick, AGI Director of Genetic Services cautioned, “Though we are getting closer to a production EPD, we encourage members to continue sending in data. Consistency of scoring within a producer’s herd is key, and luckily, we have a variety of resources here at the Association to help.”

Between herd variation, just like any other trait, is handled through the use of contemporary group effects in the EPD analysis. Thus, the main focus is consistency within a herd year after year. The American Angus Association also has partnerships with university judging teams to aid in foot scoring.

Figure 1. Genetic trend for Claw Set EPD in highly accurate Angus sires. Blue line is a linear trend. Red line is a smoothing curve (Loess regression).
 As seen in Figure 1, claw set has basically remained unchanged in Angus cattle since 1985. This may be due to the lower heritability of claw set or less phenotypic selection on claw set. An EPD should help improve the rate of genetic progress for claw set.

Figure 2. Genetic trend for Foot Angle EPD in high accuracy Angus sires. Connealy Counselor, an outlier with a Foot Angle EPD of 1.20 was excluded from this graph. Blue line is a linear trend. Red line is a smoothing curve (Loess regression).
If we compare the 30 years from 1985 to 2015, Foot Angle has also not changed in Angus cattle. However, we see foot angle getting worse from 2003 to 2008, at a rate of 0.013 units per year. However, we see improvement in foot angle from 2009 to 2015 at a rate of -0.016 units per year. This may be due to the ease of phenotypic selection for foot angle or the increased response to selection due to the higher heritability for foot angle.

Recording, Reporting, and Analysis of Subjective Scores

The American Hereford Association uses subjective scores to report Udder and Teat EPDs. They began publishing production EPDs for these traits in 2015. The genetic trend for both of these traits began to improve more rapidly in 2010 likely due to systematic recording and reporting of udder and teat scores in 2009 (Figure 3). These results show how important data collection and reporting are for genetic improvement. Further, this illustrates that subjective scores, when properly analyzed and used, can effectively improve economically important traits.
Figure 3. Genetic trends for Udder (red line) and Teat (blue line) in the American Hereford Association.

Work by Other Breed Associations

The press release pointed out that these were the first foot score EPDs in the U.S. beef industry. Angus made this distinction because the dairy industry has been reporting structure genetic predictions for quite some time. The Australian Angus Association has structural soundness genetic predictions for Front Feet Angle, Front Feet Claw Set, Rear Feet Angle, Rear Leg Hind View and Rear Leg Side View.

Breed associations in the U.S. are also working towards structure EPDs.

Tommy Perkins, International Brangus Breeders Association, explained at the 2017 Texas Beef Cattle Short Course several subjective scoring systems Brangus breeders are using to record and report data. These include a 1 to 5 scale for foot angle and claw set.

Bob Weaber, Kansas State University, provided an update on structural soundness research being conducted at KSU in collaboration with the Red Angus Association of America.


Commercial cattle farmers and ranchers can utilize crossbreeding to complement the strengths and weaknesses of different breeds. Seedstock producers and commercial operations that straightbreed need to look for avenues of genetic improvement. This frequently requires the recording and reporting of data to produce EPDs that increase genetic improvement. At the very least, this requires systematic recording of these traits to increase attention to their impacts and expression.

Take Home Messages

Beef producers, especially seedstock producers, should learn at least two lessons from these developments.

  1. Record and Report data that affect you customers' success
  2. Subjective scores, when analyzed in a genetic evaluation framework, are valuable sources of information

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Breed composition: it’s like chocolates you can’t tell what’s inside just by looking at them

Written by Tamar Crum, Jared E. Decker, Robert D. Schnabel, and Jeremy F. Taylor

“My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump

You may be wondering how in the world does a box of chocolates relate to breed composition of livestock? Or, if you are anything like me, it’s where did I hide that Halloween chocolate, I need some! I think that there are two analogies between a box of chocolates and the breed composition of livestock. 

First, we can pick out the white chocolates and may even be able to separate the milk chocolates from the dark chocolates.  This is similar to our ability to visually evaluate breed characteristics and sort livestock into different breed or subspecies (Bos taurus or Bos indicus influenced) based on breed characteristics.  However, such visual evaluation of breed composition is not terribly accurate.  For example, biting into a piece of dark chocolate and finding a nut when you were expecting caramel.  Crossbreeding is an important tool in the cattle industry, as it enables us to capitalize on breed complementarity and hybrid vigor.  However, crossbreeding complicates our ability to accurately sort animals into breeds based on breed standard traits.  Imagine a box of chocolates that contains a few chocolates that appear to be covered in both white and milk chocolate.  Do we sort these chocolates into the milk chocolate group or the white chocolate group?  Or, perhaps a new ‘hybrid’ group, since neither of these groups really reflects the correct composition. 

Second, a box of chocolates includes a diverse assortment of “fillings”.  The “fillings” cannot typically be determined from just visual evaluation.  The different “fillings” provide another challenge to our being able to sort the chocolates into groups.  Without reading the decoder in the box (isn’t that cheating?) or just taking a bite out of each of them (no judgment on my part if that is your routine!), we cannot accurately sort the chocolates.  The “filling” of the chocolates is directly analogous to the DNA of an animal.  If we keep breeding records on our animals, we can sort the animals based on their pedigree and breed registrations.  For example, if we have offspring from a registered Angus sire and a purebred Simmental dam, we can assume that the progeny will be 50% Angus and 50% Simmental.  But, what about if we take this progeny and breed it to a registered Angus? Will the resulting grandprogeny be 75% Angus and 25% Simmental? Due to the random assortment of DNA (chromosomes) into the sex cells, these proportions can vary. Not only can they differ from the 75/25 mark in an individual, but full-sibs produced from exactly the same mating can also be comprised of varying grandparental breed proportions.  Who knew that sorting a “box of chocolates” could be so complicated?

Understanding the breed composition of animals is a challenge, especially for genetic researchers.  Not all members of a breed are identical. Each breed was formed by an initial sampling of animals that were considered to be “characteristic” of a desired breed type.  Later selection and breed development produced breeds that differed for carcass qualities, maternal ability, or even adaptability. These characteristics make the breeds valuable to the industry.  In addition, each breed may have different mechanisms underlying variation in traits, such as feed efficiency or marbling.  Differences in traits between breeds reward both the producer and the consumer when crossbreeding is used. 

However, in certain genetic analyses we often need to understand the breed composition of animals to appropriately use the data. For example, when markers are used to generate estimates of genetic merit for traits such as feed efficiency, the resulting prediction equations will only be useful within the breeds that are represented in the training data set.  So understanding the breed composition of the animals will guide us in understanding how broadly useful the resulting prediction equations will be. Because of the inaccuracies of breed identification of crossbred animals using visual measures, a method to determine breed composition based on sampling the “filling” will provide a more accurate measure.  We have developed an analytical method to estimate the ancestry/breed composition of crossbred animals based on their DNA data.

You may have heard of or even participated in the 23andMe,, and other genetic tests that are used to predict your ancestry.  You know, you used to dance in your lederhosen until you found out that you were Scottish and so now you wear a kilt! Think of our method as the 23andMe analysis for cows.

So how does the analysis work? In ancestry analysis, the observed data are DNA genotypes for animals which may be full-blood, purebred, or crossbred and the inferred factors are the ancestral or “reference” breeds.  To conduct the analysis, the first and most important step is to determine a set of reference population animals that genetically define the frequencies of genotypes at each tested variant among the members of each respective breed.  As you might expect, this makes it extremely important that the breed definition for the “reference” samples is correct.  In addition to being the most important step, determining the subset of samples that represents the diversity within each of the “reference” breeds is technically difficult. 

The reason for this is that the concept of breed and breed membership is man-made, and has not persisted in nature. The creation of species is a complex and lengthy process taking tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.  On the other hand, the development of livestock breeds is a very recent concept, beginning with domestication of cattle about 10,000 years ago and leading to the formation of herd books approximately 200 years ago.  Compared to the thousands of years cattle have roamed the earth happily mating at random, we should probably only expect that regions of the genome with large  effects on traits that define breed characteristics have been subject to human selection and resulted in breed differences. However, the phenomenon of drift in DNA variant frequencies over the last 200 years has caused enough differences in frequencies among breeds that we do in fact find signal for breed identification. Our software’s output can be represented by a figure similar to Figure 1.

Figure 1: Genetic profiles for animals defined as representing 18 different breeds. Breed identification is shown below each colored block and each animal is represented as a vertical line within the figure.
 The software does not know which animals were chosen to represent each breed but simply clusters them together based upon genetic similarity. We then arrange the output according to the animals that were selected to represent each breed to produce Figure 1. Each block contains a dominant color that is representative of each breed.  There also appears to be small levels of mixture represented by the colors in the top and bottom of each block for almost all the breeds. One interpretation of this is that there is a shortage of statistical power to completely predict breed ancestry.  However, this does not seem to vary much as we increase the number of markers used in the analysis. So, this result could suggest that these samples do not represent purebred animals. But, this is not the case in the recent sense, as the animals sampled to represent each of the breeds were traced by pedigree to ensure that they were purebred.  What appears to be more likely is that this represents breeding events that took place before the foundation animals for each breed were selected. Two simple examples of these events are the polled and coat color variants found in Hereford cattle.  The polled mutation in Herefords is identical to the mutation found in Angus cattle (and other Celtic breeds) and the Hereford coat color variant is only found in white-faced European cattle (e.g., Simmental). This indicates that these variants, and therefore breeds, have common, albeit, common distant ancestries.

The current software version functions to provide estimates of the genome-wide ancestry of individuals.
Future versions may allow ancestry estimates for specific regions of each chromosome.  It provides a method for determining the breed composition of individuals with no pedigree information, and that were perhaps generated in a commercial environment employing various crossbreeding systems.  Figure 2 illustrates how the genomes of crossbred animals can be separated into components originating from their ancestral breeds, with no pedigree information included in the analysis. By establishing the ancestry of these individuals, we can determine cohorts for use in association studies or other downstream analyses such as the genomic prediction of EPDs.

Figure 2: Genetic profiles for 238 crossbred animals. Breed identification is shown by color and each animal is a vertical line within the figure.  The key indicates which color corresponds to which ancestral breed. The animals shown are mostly Angus and Simmental.

The goal of this research is to develop an analytical pipeline that will enable the detection of the breed composition of crossbred animals based on animals defined to be representative of specific breeds. We will then use this information to enhance the analysis of genetic and trait data. Opportunities for the use of this information are only limited by our imagination.  It was once stated on 23andMe’s website that, “Your DNA can tell you a lot about your family, your health, your relatives, your ancestry, your traits, and you.”  ( We hope that this software can help us do just that for cows.

Tamar Crum is a PhD student at the University of Missouri.  This research is part of a study entitled “Inference of Admixture for Cattle with Complex Ancestry”.  This article was written as part of a Walton-Berry Award given to the Decker Genomics Group at the University of Missouri, which paid for four graduate students to attend the Beef Improvement Federation Conference held in Athens, GA in June 2017.

Reprinted with permission from the March 2018 issue of SimTalk.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mineral Supplementation for Cattle

Eric Bailey
University of Missouri Extension State Beef Nutrition Specialist
Presentation at Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference 

Here is the contrarian view. Compared to other drivers of profit,  mineral has an extremely small impact on profitability. Here is a quote to illustrate this view.

"Don't measure with a micrometer and cut with an ax!" -Dr. Tim Steffens.

We don't give a cow a half a teaspoon of mineral, watch her eat it, and go about our day. No, we put out mineral and cows will eat as little or as much as they want.

Bailey's philosophy: Mineral nutrition is an insurance policy. Minerals are not a cure or a key to improving production.

What is the issue? Marketing vs. Science. If we are feeding cows 3 year old hay that is mainly buck brush and sumac, we have much bigger nutritional issues than mineral. In many situations we have energy and protein deficiencies before we have mineral deficiencies. Minerals are high profit margin products for feed companies. They are frequently bombarding cattle farmers and ranchers with testimonials of how well minerals work.

Bailey surveyed articles by extension specialists. He and other specialists recommend using the same mineral program during a drought. 

Injectable trace minerals cover the 4 trace minerals most likely to be deficient in cattle (copper, zinc, selenium, and manganese). The pros of injectable trace minerals is that we ensure nutritional requirements are meet.

Mineral intake does not need to be consistent across time. Minerals are stored in blood, bones, etc., so cattle do not need constant supplementation. If 50 cows eat an entire palette of mineral in a month, simply wait a month before supplying them additional mineral.

Free choice mineral consumption is projected to be 2-8 ounces per animal per day. This means each cow needs one to two 50 lbs bags per year. If they eat more than that, pull out the mineral for a while to maintain rate.

Price per bag ranges from 6.29 to 34.99. Let's compare mineral supplementation costs and annual cow costs. In southern Missiouri, the average producer spends $46.68 per cow per year for minerals. The average producer spends $848 per cow per year. There are bigger problems with cow costs than mineral! Pasture and hay are the biggest cost per cow each year.  

Trace minerals have important roles in immunity but the effect of supplementing above established requirements is debated. 
Keeping salt out year round is a good idea.
Most nutrition issues are related to protein and energy intake.

Cafeteria style mineral supplementation (cow gets to choose which mineral to eat) was disproved 40 years ago. Cows don't crave specific minerals.

We shouldn't compare prices between tubs. We should be looking at what is the cost of meeting nutritional requirements. Often, nutritional requirements are meet with the least expensive mineral.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Do You Own Your Job or a Business? Are You Working for a Lunatic?

David Pratt
Presentation at Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference 

Ranch Management Consultants Inc. runs two programs, The Ranching For Profit School and the Executive Link.

"When we work for ourselves, we work at what we are good at." Pratt says. We are doing the $10 an hour job. However, we may be leaving the $100,000 per hour job undone.

Most ranches are likely losing money.

Pratt encourages the audience to subscribe to the Ranching for Profit blog.

What letter is most different?

b? c? d? q?

Look again:

What about the t?

We see things through the lens of our expectations.

What if the t is a threat? What if you didn't even see it? What if the t is an opportunity? It is a lot easier to see threats and opportunities at your neighbor's operation.

Too often, we wait till we are out of time and money to make changes.
We hear the phrase, "If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you've always got." But, in the cattle business, "If you always do what you have always done you will lose your shirt!" Ranching costs continue to go up.

We have to think about our paradigms and values. Nothing will happen until you change your paradigm. You will not do things differently until you think differently.

We develop 20 heifers per every 100 cows (replacement rate is 20%).  Half of our cows have 3 calves or less.
A bred cow costs about $1,800. A cull cow is worth $900. So, the value of $900 divided by 3 calves is $300. So, the average cow depreciates by $300 per year.

We teach our kids that they have to work to make money. Want some extra cash, do chores for mom or a neighbor. We then think that working harder and working more is the key to get more money.

The biggest problem in agriculture is not commodity prices or land prices. Young people blame the older generation for not letting them make changes. However, the younger generation knows with in a matter of months that the older generation is not going to change. So, the older generation may be responsible for the first few months. However, the younger generation is responsible for staying. We put up with bad situations for far too long. However, generational transfer is not occuring. Of the people who want to pass their ranches in tact to the next generation only 30% are successful.

Why does this happen?

  • Poor communication and planning (no one want to think about their own demise, no one wants to talk about competing sibling interests, etc.)
  • The business isn't viable
  • Heirs are incompetent. We teach our kids how to raise calves and tend to crops. We don't teach them how to run a business.

Is your ranch a business or is it a collection of assests and a bunch of jobs?
Does your ranch serve a customer? If your ranch is to serve yourself, it is not a business. Businesses serve specific customers. Are you solving your customer's problems?

Does our ranch work for us or do we work for the ranch? Can you leave the ranch and everything go fine?

What is your reaction to $100,000 ideas? If the response is "We don't have time!", then you are not running a business.

If sold, would we be selling a system or assets?
Do we invest in professional development?

When we say "We ought to run it like a business" we are admitting it is not a business! It is either a business or it is not.

We work ON it, not just IN it. Should we own the cows or should someone else? If we own the cows, when should we be calving?

Does it make a profit? Profit is the breath of business. 

There are 4 ways to make money. Employee, Self-employed (you work for a lunatic), business, or investor.
If you are an employee or self-employed you have to work for your money. If you are a business owner or investor, your money works for you. If you work for money, you manage to avoid what you don't want. If your money works for you, you manage for what you want.

Lifestyle or business? If ranching is a business, the ranching lifestyle improves!

Derek, a Ranching for Profit alum said, "If we focus on business, our life gets better. If we focus on life, we worked our butts off! Now we work our mind much more than our bodies."

You are not there to support the ranch, the ranch is there to support you!

There is a difference between working in the business and working on the business.
Working in the business:
What should I do today? Put up hay? Feed cows?
Working on the business:
Should I own cows? Should I put up hay?

Need to set aside two mornings a week to work ON the business.

We need to work on the business, so instead of 30% of ranches being successfully transitioned between generations so that 70% of ranching businesses are successfully transitioned to the next generation.

Decker's Additional Thoughts
Genetic decisions, including breeding objectives, need to be an important part of working ON the business.

  • Should I crossbreed? If so, which breeds should I use?
  • Should I use a terminal crossbreeding system? If so, should I be buying heifers?
  • How can I use genetics to better market my cattle?
  • What are the goals of my breeding program?
  • Should I be DNA testing my cattle? If so, which ones?
  • Which economic selection index should I be focused on?
  • How can I turn over generations faster?
  • What data should I be collecting? 
  • Who is going to analyze that data for me? Breed association? Private firm?
  • Does my breeding program meet my customer's needs?
  • How can I provide better customer support?
  • Should I be buying my customer's calves?

What working on the business (WOTB) questions related to genetics would you add to this list?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Register for the 2018 Cattle Raisers Convention

Join the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association for the largest ranching event of the year at the Fort Worth Convention Center, March 23 – 25, 2018. The 2018 Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo brings the best education and information to cattle industry participants. The event is open to all ranchers, landowners and cattle industry participants. You’re guaranteed to walk away with ideas and energy that will have a profound and profitable impact on your ranching operation.


This year’s high-powered, practical education will allow you to choose from a powerful lineup of educational sessions and seminars on topics that matter to you. The Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo will offer 35 hours of practical instruction, for beginners and advanced operators, that will provide you with the practical, real-world information you need to help improve your cattle operation. Along with this, the Expo will host a demonstration area with live cattle demonstrations to showcase tools and techniques you can take home and put to work.

New this year, the Convention will offer Livestock Handling Workshops on the evenings of Thursday March 22 and Friday, March 23. These workshops will feature in-depth livestock handling instruction and a special Ranch-to-Retail Workshop showcasing how beef carcasses are transformed into the retail cuts valued by consumers.

Cattle Raisers Expo

This year will feature the largest Expo in the history of Cattle Raisers Convention. With acres of equipment, technology and information under one roof , it’s a true showcase of the latest and greatest from the region’s leading agribusiness companies. From our indoor shooting range to world class exhibitors, the Expo has something for everyone.

Registration and Free Day Pass Code

To register for the 2018 Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo, visit or call 800-242-7820. Get your free expo day pass online at and use code EXPO2018.

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."