Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thompson Farm Field Day

I will be speaking at the Thompson Farm Field Day on Tuesday September 17th about increasing the precision of purchasing, mating, and culling decisions. Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 23, 2013

BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly
The Truth: Every Living Thing Is A Genetic Defect Carrier

Pills 014 Here is a link to my article in the BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly. I know there may be some questions (and disagreement) about my article. Please comment with questions or contact me by email.
Luckily, we now have the tools to manage these broken genes.

Gereedschapsrek monument dieselgemaal Papekop aan het Kromwijkerpad te Woerden

Thursday, August 22, 2013

North American Limousin Foundation updates parentage testing

I received news that NALF is switching to SNP genotyping for parentage verification. Quote from their e-Partners newsletter:
 Performance Committee 
SNP Parentage Transition
Within the past 12 months, members have experienced problems with parentage verification due to new lab contracts and GeneSeek Inc.'s acquisition of long time NALF official parentage DNA lab Scidera. In order to alleviate verification issues and extended turn around times, the NALF board has decided to transition all parentage testing to SNP technology starting with calves born January 1, 2013. Members with active AI sires and donor dams will be receiving a letter in the next week requesting samples on their AI sires and donor dams which GeneSeek and NALF will run historical profiles on in order to verify their progeny via SNP free of charge. These historical animals will not be rerun for parentage verification. New samples are requested if at all possible. Please read your letter in regards to semen samples. If you have any questions, please contact Brittany or Joe in the NALF office.    
I would be happy to answer any questions breeders may have about this change.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cattlemen can avoid passing on broken genes

Radio Free Strawberry
by Alan Levine
I had a great conversation with Tom Steever at the Missouri State Fair Simmental Event.

Listen to the interview. Then, post your thoughts in the comments section.

In the future, how will your operation approach genetic defects?

Most important innovation?

BEEF Magazine is running a poll asking the question, What’s The Most Important Innovation In Genetics?

Artificial insemination and EPDs (national databases) are currently the most popular answers. But, these two innovations relied on one another to be successes!
Artificial insemination would not be as beneficial if we could not identify the outstanding sires that deserve to be used in herds across the country. EPD evaluations would not be nearly as accurate if we didn't have huge numbers of progeny for popular sires. Plus, these progeny are born in very different environments across the country, so we are able to accurately account for environmental effects in EPD predictions. These two technologies rely on each other and work together. So, my answer is both!

As DOC HARRIS said, the important word in the poll question is "was". If the question used "will be" I think the answers would be different. As new challenges arise in the beef industry, I will be keeping an eye on the solutions offered by genomics.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reaching the Peak

By Gürkan Sengün [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A member of the's Ranch Talk Forum, graybull, made an interesting comment about my blog. 
Very interesting thoughts about DNA testing and related.  And you are exactly correct...........more tools will get you where you are going.
Cavet is that "if you are driving on the wrong road........going faster will only get you there quicker."
I realize that this is a common misconception from the examples and explanations I have been using to describe genomic selection and genomic-enhanced EPDs. Let's see if I can fix that.

Two thoughts.
First, these tools can be used to reach an optimum rather than an extreme. In fact, as you get closer to the optimum, you need to make small, precise steps, rather than large steps of varying precision. As you approach the apex of the peak, if you continue to take large steps, it is possible you could go past the optimum. But, decreasingly small, precise steps in the right direction will help you reach the optimum. Genomic-enhanced EPDs provide more precise estimates of the animal's genetic worth earlier in the life of the animal, especially when compared to parent average EPDs. Genomic-enhanced EPDs provide the most bang for the buck when young animals are tested for which there is little data. By making breeding and culling decisions using more reliable genomic-enhanced EPDs, a breeder will be able to reach an optimum easier.

Assume the grid below represents two traits, birth weight from left to right and milk from front to back. If birth weight is too small, calves are under-developed and struggle after birth. If birth weight is too large, we end up with calving problems. If milk is too low, the dam does not provide enough milk and the calf is light when we take it to market. If milk is too high, the dam does not have the energy resources to be fertile and rebred. For these two traits we are trying to reach the optimum in the middle. Genomic-enhanced EPDs can help us reach that peak, as we make better decisions when we cull heifers or buy a clean-up bull.
Mexican hat potential polar
By RupertMillard (Own work by uploader, with gnuplot) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Second, as a caveat, there is an idea floating around that if you are going to fail, fail fast. This is a data-driven philosophy where you try a new approach, gather lots of data, then quickly evaluate the outcome. If the new approach is working, continue to use it. If the new approach fails, cut your loses and move on. This idea is usually associated with tech start-ups, and I make no claims about how appropriate it is to livestock production.

Please share your thoughts in the comments about reaching an optimum or failing fast.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cherry Picking and Cattle

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
There is a great post about picking cherries and raising cattle at the Black Ink blog. I really like how the husband and mother-in-law had different attitudes toward change. It is also interesting how the source of new information influenced the response.
What traditions in livestock genetics need to be questioned?
Do you have an example of how your operation questioned tradition and found an improved practice?
I would love to see your examples in the comments section.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Judging Contest with a GeneMAX twist

Certified Angus Beef is have an intersting contest on their Facebook page where people are asked to visually appraise and rank a set of 4 heifers. But, the official placings are based upon their GeneMAX scores. GeneMAX is a genetic test marketed by Zoetis to identify cattle that grow well in the feedlot and produce a highly marbled carcass. Post your placings on Certified Angus Beef's Facebook page for a chance to win. Post the reasons for your placing in the comments section below!