Monday, September 26, 2016 Monday: Genetic Correlations and Antagonisms

Knowledge of which traits are antagonistic can be utilized to manage the impact of selection decisions on other correlated traits.  However, it is important to remember that although genetic correlations can sometimes create the need to exercise more care in selection to alleviate unintended consequences, these correlations can sometimes be utilized to our benefit.  Understanding the magnitude and direction of genetic correlations can assist in selection decisions.  Utilizing balanced selection for multiple EPDs in a breeding objective or using an appropriate selection index will ensure that genetic antagonisms don’t become a limiting factor for genetic progress.

See the factsheet for more information.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thompson Research Center Field Day: Modified Genes: Science or Supper?

Rod Geisert

In the 1950s, artificial insemination was developed. In 1978, the first human born from in vitro fertilization was born. Both of these technologies were criticized at the time, but now they are widely accepted.

When you fabricate something in science, you are going to get caught! When someone makes a claim in the literature, others try to replicate it. There was a fraudulent report of cloning in mice, and although this was not a true success, it got people thinking about and trying to clone animals.

A clone is simply an identical twin born on a different day.

Dolly the clone was named after Dolly Parton, because the cell from the donor sheep was from a mammary cell. Cloning animals did not immediately change how we raise livestock. But, cloning allows us to do additional things, like gene editing.

Who is going to feed the world? You are! Technology revolutions, like the green revolution and industrial revolution, have allowed the human population and food supply to continue to grow.

We can use the cow’s mammory gland (udder) as a factory to make milk containing pharmaceuticals. But, they could also delete the gene responsible for coding the prion protein (the protein messed up in Mad Cow disease). This way, we can confidently use the protein made in the milk without the worry of getting Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could breed a cow that would never get mastitis? We can, by introducing a gene from bacteria that destroys the cell wall of the bacteria responsible for mastitis.

PRRS disease in swine causes hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue for the swine industry. Researchers at the University of Missouri removed a gene that was necessary for PRRS to replicate within swine cells. Twenty-five percent of the embryos treated with the CRISPR-Cas9 system contain the gene edit. Gene edited pigs could snort tons of the virus and never get sick (see for more information).

Gene edited animals are not transgenic. They are simply animals in which we have edited the DNA using a very precise technology (CRISPR-Cas9). Would you eat a cloned animal? Would you eat a twin animal? Eating a cloned animal is no different from eating a twin.

This is not technology that will impact the beef industry 100 years from now, 50 years from now; the use of this technology in the beef industry is right around the corner.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thompson Research Center Field Day: Economic Opportunities for Missouri Cattle Producers Facing Lower Cattle Prices

“Supply and Demand works!” said Scott Brown at the Thompson Research Center Field Day. We have seen huge increases in meat production in the last two years. In 2014, we saw record cattle prices. Beef producers saw high prices, so they produced more beef. This of course lead to lower cattle prices.
The strengthening dollar has also lead to fewer beef exports. Lots of beef production but very little exports. We may not be done with lower cattle prices. A $1.10 looked a lot better on the way up than on the way down.
“Scott, where is the bottom at? Guys, if I knew where the bottom was at I’d be rich by now” Brown said.
If you had bought LRP or futures in the spring, you would be much happier right now.

When comparing 2008 to 2016 cattle inventory, it looks like Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri still have a lot of room left to grow.

If you look at cattle return for 2016, it is the 8th or 9th highest all time. In 2015, cow-calf producers were still in charge. Now, the cow-calf producer is only seeing 65% of the value, compared to 90% in 2015.

We may be starting to find the bottom. Fundamentals suggest we might see higher prices, but there is still considerable down turn risk.

Do you have a marketing plan? Doing the same thing year after year is a plan, but it sure isn’t responsive to the market.

Is it a strategy to reduce risk to focus on cattle that grade higher? Prime has stayed strong over time.
There is a lot of volatility in the Choice-Select spread. CAB-Select spread continues to be a premium, but the Prime-Select spread continues to be the strongest premium. New products for consumers also provide premiums, especially for early adopters. It pays in the long haul to focus on what consumers want.

Prime boxed beef prices has remained flat in 2016, while Choice and Select boxed beef prices have declined all year.

Supply is not very responsive to negative returns due to fixed costs.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Decker Extension Evaluation Survey

When I was hired as a beef genetics state extension specialist in University of Missouri Extension, I said I would strive to have a data-driven extension program. It is now time to more fully evaluate my extension program. I would sincerely appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey below:

Decker Extension Evaluation Survey

All responses are anonymous. The survey will be open till Friday October 21, 2016. Please one survey per person.

Don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thompson Research Center Field Day: Overview of reproductive research at the Th ompson Research Center

Dave Patterson

Patterson's research focus seeks to answer the question "Can we overcome the resistance to adopt AI with the development of fixed timed AI protocols?"

The Thompson Research Center has been involved with AI research since 1997 when the FDA was evaluating the use of CIDRs using cattle at the farm. In 1998, Patterson started using the center for his research and many students have been trained while working on projects at the research center.

The Show-Me-Select Program is designed to help producers understand the importance of heifer development based on reproductive success. There have been 271 veterinarians involved in the program and 123,091 heifers have been enrolled in the program. There have been $44,565,350 in gross sales through Show-Me-Select heifer sales. Ninety-five percent of the counties in Missouri have enrolled heifers in the Show-Me-Select program. Heifers from the Show-Me-Select program have been sold into 19 states. Heifers are classified as Tier II if they are sired by a proven AI sire. Tier II with an AI pregnancy see a $292 premium at sale. When the cattle market prices are high, there is smaller difference in premiums between the different classification of heifers in the sale. But, as the cattle market prices decrease, we once again see larger premiums for AI sired and AI bred heifers.

Reproductive tract scores help cattle producers know if a heifer is mature enough to bred. Reproductive tract scores can be collected by a veterinarian and help producers know which heifers to keep and bred and which heifers need to be culled. Heifers that have reached puberty earlier tend to do better in fixed-time AI protocols.

In 2010, 68% of heifers were bred at least one time by AI. In 2015, 90% of the heifers were bred at least one time by AI. Ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis has also increased drastically in the program.

Managing two-year-old cows presents a unique challenge in managing a beef herd, because they face many obstacles to re-bred. Patterson’s group is researching how to best synchronize these females for improved fertility rates. Protocols that use CIDRs help cycling two-year-olds get breed and help non-cycling cows start to cycle and get bred as well. With either a 14-day CIDR or 7-day CoSync + CIDR protocol, 88% of the two-year-old cows were pregnant in the first 30 days of the breeding season.

Can we improve pregnancy rates if we manage the cows differently in the AI synchronization protocol? Patterson's group is looking at split-time AI to improve pregnancy rates. In heifers, we can improve pregnancy rates by 15% using a split-time AI protocol. But, we don’t see any improvement in cow pregnancy rates. See "Split-Time AI: Using Estrus Detection Aids to Optimize Timed Artificial Insemination" for more information about split-time AI.

The 14-day CIDR-PG protocol for heifers with split-time AI.
The 7-day CO-Synch + CIDR protocol for cows with split-time AI.

The only heifers or cows that need a GnRH injection are only those that have not expressed estrus (heat). This means fewer shots and reduced costs.

Patterson’s group is also working on the development of a 9-day CIDR protocol. Preliminary results suggest that the 9-day protocol is having a much tighter grouping of the estrus response of the cows. On the 9-day protocol, there was a 17 percentage point improvement in pregnancy rates (77% vs 60%) compared with the 14-day protocol. In follow up projects, the 9-day protocol had a 10 point advantage.

Patterson urged producers to make sure that you are using the current years AI protocols sheets.

In the last 10 years, we have doubled the amount of semen that is sold. Fixed-timed AI protocols have made artificial insemination easier to accomplish.

As the market turns down, how can you distinguish your cattle from the rest of the market? Using reproductive technologies is a great way to differentiate your cattle.

Next year’s Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle meeting will be in Manhattan, Kansas. Previous years proceedings may be seen on their website,

Decker's Take Home Message
Artificial insemination allows beef breeders access to much better bulls than a typical natural service bull. Fixed timed AI protocols have made it much easier to implement an AI program.

Monday, September 19, 2016

eBEEF Monday: What is Gene Editing?

Gene editing is a category of new methods that can be used to precisely edit or change the genetic code. As the name “gene editing” suggests, these technologies enable researchers to add, delete, or replace letters in the genetic code. In the same way that spell check identifies and corrects single letter errors in a word or grammar errors in a sentence, gene editing can be used to identify and change the letters that make up the genetic code (i.e. DNA) within an individual. This factsheet explores the many possible uses of gene editing.

For more information see the factsheet at

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Profitability in focus at Red Angus Commercial Cattlemen’s Symposium in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City – Cattlemen from around the country gathered in Oklahoma City to attend “Dollars in Your Pocket,” the Commercial Cattlemen’s Symposium held in conjunction with the National Red Angus Convention. A full slate of speakers addressed 200 cattlemen and women on overall profitability in the industry, present economic conditions, nutritional changes to improve cowherd efficiency, and calf crop marketing methods. Dr. Clint Rusk, head of the animal science department at Oklahoma State University, served as emcee for the day.

Darrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Ag Economist, opened the session with a market forecast. “Cattle slaughter is up, carcass weight is up resulting in a 4.7 percent increase in beef production. Total meat supplies will be up, with beef leading the way,” Peel noted. “It should be noted that there is only a 1.5 percent increase in beef consumption.”

He also stated that beef demand continues to be strong. He expects it to rise further as beef prices come back down in the meat case and consumers return making additional purchases. “Beef demand will come back in line with people who were priced out of the market a year ago,” Peel forecasted.

Peel shared with cattlemen and women that volatility has been an issue in recent years and predicted he expects fewer larger swings in the market. “Looking ahead, we have a lot more potential for stability. While cattle prices may erode a bit more in the future, for the most part, we are looking for more stability. The biggest unknown in the future will be on the demand side. Demand could go a long way to offset the supply pressure,” Peel added.

Tom Brink, Red Angus Association of America CEO, brought the keynote address to the conference and encouraged the cattle raisers in attendance to strive for progress in his presentation, “The Curse of Being Average.”

Brink challenged beef business owners to look at their cost of production and the available data in their businesses in order to be better than average in one, two, three or even four areas of profit-driving categories to survive and thrive.

“There is over a $300-per-head advantage by beating the average,” Brink said. “Average won’t take anyone very far in the cow-calf business. You have to know your numbers.”

In encouraging producers to get serious about improvement, Brink pointed out the opportunity to use DNA tools in selecting commercial heifers.  “They don’t tell us everything, but they are a powerful, powerful tool,” he Brink.

During the afternoon session, Dr. John Arthington, the University of Florida, director of the Range Cattle Research and Education Center, shared the importance of mineral supplementation and the effective use of products to improve beef cattle performance.

Darrell Busby, livestock specialist and manager of the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity, explained and assisted members in gaining a greater understanding of retaining ownership of beef calves for additional profit opportunities. This subject was of particular interest in the current market environment to garner the most profit per head.

The Commercial Cattlemen’s Symposium was the opening session of the 2016 National Red Angus Convention, held September 7 - 9 in Oklahoma City.

The Red Angus Association of America serves the beef industry by enhancing and promoting the competitive advantages of Red Angus and Red Angus-influenced cattle. RAAA provides commercial producers with the most objectively described cattle in the industry by seeking and implementing new innovative technologies based on sound scientific principles that measure traits of economic importance. For more information, visit