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Showing posts from June, 2015

Red Angus Releases Herd Navigator DNA test

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The Red Angus Association of America has enabled more particular selection of Red Angus commercial females. The Herd Navigator reports breed percentile ranks for the RAAA HerdBuilder and GridMaster indexes, plus 13 EPD traits. The percentile ranks mean a score of 50 is average, a score of 1 is in the top 1 percent (cream of the crop) and a score of 99 is in the bottom 1 percent (bottom of the barrel). The interpretation of these percentile rankings is the same as Red Angus EPDs but is opposite to other commercial heifer panels. The test is marketed for $25 per female. The producer is required to own at least one registered Red Angus bull and the registration must be transferred to the producer (or show involvement with RAAA, such as large semen orders). If the possible sires of the females have been genotyped at GeneSeek for genomic-enhanced EPDs, then the parentage of the females will also be reported to the commercial producer. This is helpful if the commercial producer has used a c…

eBEEF.org launched at BIF

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A new website dedicated to beef cattle genetics has been launched at the 2015 Beef Improvement Federation Conference. eBEEF.org is part of the national eXtension program with the goal of being a one-stop site for beef cattle genetics and genomics information. Beef cattle specialists from six land grant institutions have joined forces to provide educational materials that are pertinent to today’s beef cattle producers, without searching multiple sites or filtering through countless hits on a search. The site contains factsheets, short frequently asked question (FAQ) video clips, relevant conference recordings and webinars, a blog and links to other useful beef sites. One of the developers of the new site, Dr. Darrh Bullock at the University of Kentucky said “Often beef producers get frustrated when they search for information online and get information overload. We wanted to develop a user friendly site that provides information in a concise, understandable way without having to sort …

Cow Lifetime Productivity Task Force

Dr. Mike MacNeil
Delta G

In my opinion, this is the best talk of the conference so far. MacNeil gave an in depth look at the estimation of genetic potential, focusing on cow efficiency. My notes are too sparse to do the talk just, so I suggest that you visit the BIF Newsroom to read the proceedings paper, look at the PowerPoint, and listen to the audio (available in a day or so).

Define "Efficiency": ability to produce output without wasting inputs. Evaluations shouldn't look at residuals, i.e. measure outputs holding inputs constant or measure inputs holding outputs constant. Inputs and outputs are strongly correlated, thus improving efficiency is rather hard.

Cow efficiency is an incomplete picture, though it is a valuable picture. Hopefully indexes take all of the traits into account.

The current suite of genetic evaluations is lacking important traits.

In terms of replacement female costs reproductive traits are important and two traits are currently evaluated, Heife…

How Do Current Market Incentives Affect Genetic Selection Decisions?

Dr. Lee Schulz
Iowa State University

Genetic selection should focus on long term profitability, but cattle producers live in a short-term price world.

"The market signal is pretty clear; more calf production is needed and will be rewarded." -Peel

We need to increase the pounds of calf weaned per exposed female. Need to increase conception rate, increase calving percentage, decrease pre-weaning calf death loss, and increasing weaning weight.

The beef industry operates as a textbook commodity industry. Long-run economic (not accounting) profits are zero. Profit levels lead producers to 'bid away' margins.

The inventory cycle has become more variable, e.g. longer troughs.

Beef replacement heifers now make up 20% of the national beef cow herd. Growth has been largest in Great Plains.

Because of short-term price fluctuations, we should us management to address short-term price changes.

How much expansion should be expect? FAPRI and USDA projects vary greatly.

Should you b…

Sustainability: What Does the Data Say About the Beef Industry

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson
National Cattlemen's Beef Association

Sustainability is now seen as responsibility. Sustainability is now continuous improvement.
Sustainability is about feeding people; doing more with less.

Zero impact is not possible. Start the conversation with this point.

Over the last 6 years, we have improved sustainability by 5%. How is this possible when we weren't even thinking about sustainability 6 years ago? Any technology improvement we have implemented has improved sustainability. Stackhouse-Lawson's father-in-law thought her sustainability research project was a complete waste of Beef checkoff dollars to define a word, sustainability, that outsiders created. When she thanked him for helping her project, he was completely taken aback. She then explained that the new sprinkler system he had installed improved the sustainability of his operation.

To meet the growing demand for beef by meeting environmental, economic and social concerns.

Food waste is …

Sustainability: What is it and why does it matter?

Dr. Sara Place
Oklahoma State University

Took human civilization from 10,000 BC to 1804 AD to reach a billion people. We are now projected to reach 9 billion people by 2045. Human population growth is exponential.

Sustainability is a "wicked" problem. Such a problem has the essential characteristics that it is not solvable, thus it can only be managed. There is no clear definition of the problem, different stakeholders have different definitions, and the beef production system is very complex.

Place's working definition entails economic, environmental, and social solutions to create to sustainability.
Most of the pressure has come from environmental groups. The biggest concern is global warming. Climate has fluctuated over time. The problem is that carbon dioxide levels are increasing more rapidly than before. Previous high was 300 parts per million, but we are now over 400 parts per million.

Why are animal rights and environmental groups focusing on beef production? Mov…

Drought Was Just One Reason the US Cow Inventory Declined

John Paterson
National Cattlemen's Beef Association

What are the causes of the change in cow numbers?
1. Drought
2. High feed prices
3. High operating costs
4. Age of beef producers
5. Competition with crop production for better income
6. Price of cull cows
Reduction in cows numbers has been due to more factors than just drought.

We have seen an 18% drop in producers from 35 to 55 years old. Sixty-five percent of the land is owned by producers over 55 years old.

There still remains unused capacity in the packing plant sector.
There is $65 return for acre for crop production, but only a $16 return for beef production. The switch from pasture to crop has reduced cow inventory in crop producing states.

Chandler Keyes stated that seventy percent of our beef comes from thirty percent of our producers.
Currently, the beef herd is expanding faster than expected.

Dr. Pete Anderson says the beef industry must produce big, high quality cattle to maximize revenue.

Decker's Take Home Messa…

Temperament and Acclimation to Human Handling Impact Productive and Reproductive Efficiency in Bos indicus-Influenced Cattle

Dr. Reinaldo F. Cooke
Oregon State University

AI causes some extra work in the summer, but saved a lot of extra work in the winter during calving season.

Temperament is the behavioral response of cattle when exposed to human contact. Temperament is a heritable trait, up to 50% of the variation is due to genetics.
How do we assess temperament? Currently we use the chute score, a 1 to 5 scale:
1. Calm with no movement
2. Restless movement
3. Frequent movement with vocalization
4. Constant movement, vocalization, shaking of the chute
5. Violent and continuous struggling

Breed type was the greatest source of variation, and sex, age, and production system were also factors affecting temperament.
What is the interaction of temperament and production? Animals with excitable temperament are more paranoid, thus they have their head up looking for threats rather than in a feed bunk eating.
As temperament worsens, cortisol increases. How does this affect reproduction?
Increased cortisol limits L…

Assessing the Economic Impacts of Estrus Synchronization and Fixed-Timed AI in Beef Production

Dr. G. Cliff Lamb
University of Florida - North Florida Research & Education Center

"We know how to synchronize the cows!" Cliff Lamb stated to start his talk at the NAAB symposium at the 2015 Beef Improvement Federation Symposium.
Fixed timed AI methods make inseminating cattle much simpler.
Lamb discussed the University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center case study. From the onset of taking leadership of the center, Lamb set certain rules that cows had to meet to stay in the herd. This is motivated by the fact that pregnancy has 4 times greater economic impact than any other production trait. Because of its importance, shouldn't fertility be a focus?
Cows must meet certain standards, e.g. keep certain rules, to stay in the center's herd.
This include:

Must calve by 24 months of ageCow must have a calf every 365 daysCow must calve without assistanceCow must provide sufficient resuource for the calf to reach its genetic potentialCalf must be ge…