Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BIF 2017: Economic Impact of Estrus Synchronization and Artificial Insemination

Justin Rhinehart, standing in for Les Anderson
University of Kentucky
University of Tennessee

Why don't more producers use estrus synchronization and AI?

Cost 17%
Too Complicated 17%
Lack of facilities 11%
Other 14%
Does not work 2%

The cost per pregnancy for a bull costs between $60 and $75 depending on pregnancy rate. The cost per pregnancy is approximately similar between AI and natural service, if calculated on an equivalent production basis.

Estrus synchronization and AI improve profitability. Study looked at 1,197 cows from 8 herds. 

Herds that used fixed time-AI saw a higher weaning percentage, shorter days to calving, greater weaning weight per cows exposed, resulting in AI herds being $49 more profitable per calf. 

The greatest benefits of AI are realized after multiple generations. Part of this is improved genetic merit of cow herd from picking replacements from AI sired heifers.

Goal was to increase pounds of calf weaned per pound of cow exposed. In two herds used in long term demonstration project, cows were large, breeding season was long, and operation efficiency was low.

Over 9 years of fixed time AI, cow weights decreased from 1550 pounds to 1350 pounds. However, due to the use of selection of sires, weaning weights increased from 450 to 550 pounds. Pounds weaned per cow exposed increased from 340 pounds to 440 pounds. 

Estrus synchronization and AI is profitable in both the short and long term. Returns are greatly increased if producers take advantage of added value of their product.

Decker Take Home Message:
We have heard several times, including at BIF, that weaning weights are not increasing in the beef industry. This demonstration project clearly shows that wean things are done the right way (artificial insemination, use of EPDs for sire selection) we do see improving efficiency in terms of cows weights and weaning weights. Genetic selection works! Access to better bulls through AI works!

BIF 2017: The Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program

David Patterson
University of Missouri

What are the challenges facing the beef industry?

  • Reluctance to adopt new technology
  • Aging producer population
  • Rising input costs
  • Declining markets
  • Increasing global competition
  • Perceived lack of incentives

However, we have several opportunities, including on-the-shelf technology not being used (that works!), increasing domestic and global demand for high-quality beef, and marketing incentives that will add value.

In the U.S., we have 69% of beef farms as secondary income, 50% using a defined breeding season, and 10 to 15% using artificial insemination (AI).

Since 1996, the Show-Me-Select program has contributed great than $120 million to the Missouri economy. Over 32,000 heifers have sold through the program. Many more have stayed on the farm.

In 1998, heifers averaged $767 in Show-Me-Select sales. In 2014, they averaged $2,944. In 2015 heifers averaged  $2,242. Base-line heifers sold through the program sell for $200 more than national averages.

The Extension and Land Grant System were founded to use and apply research based knowledge in agriculture production. The Show-Me-Select Heifer program has been a great resource to obtain funding and achieve successful research projects.

CSS certified semen has a large impact on pregnancy rates in a timed AI protocol. Herds that did not use CSS semen had lower pregnancy rates.

Through the program, they have seen increased use of ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis. This allows to tell which pregnancies are AI bred and which are natural service.

Carrying an AI pregnancy added $184 premium to heifers. Having the sire identified (Tier II heifer) added $68. Having a Tier II heifer (sired by high accuracy AI sire) and carrying an AI pregnancy adds about $400.

"Take a breath and don't stop doing these things when the market drops," Patterson said. These practices added equity into your cowherd.

In 2015, a new designation was added for heifers, Show-Me-Plus. A Show-Me-Plus heifer is a heifer with a genomic prediction. We predict that this adds a $200 premium to heifers in the sale.

From the Thompson Research Center herd, steers who graded Prime earned $169 more dollars than steers that qualified for CAB, and 286 more dollars than steers that graded Choice.

In 2010, 68% of the heifers in the Show-Me-Select program were artificially inseminated at least one time. In 2016, 91% of the heifers were AI'ed at least one time. This rate of adoption is much higher than industry average.

The heifers are managed with a health program. Further, all heifers are evaluated for a Reproductive Tract Score. A Reproductive Tract Score measures whether or not heifers are pre-pubertal. Heifers with a RTS of 1 only get bred 6% of the time. Heifers with a RTS of 2 have a 29% AI pregnancy rate. Heifers with RTS of 3, 4, and 5 have AI pregnancy rates of 48, 51, and 52%, respectively.

Heifers on an MGA protocal that were non-cycling had an AI pregnancy rate of 35%. Heifers on a 14-Day CIDR protocol that were non-cycling had an AI pregnancy rate of 47%.

Patterson made the point that the beef industry needs more and better reproductive data. Open vs pregnant is not enough. Reproductive tract scores and precise pregnancy dates from ultrasound aid in evaluating reproductive success.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Respond to Survey, Be Entered To Win $100!

We are conducting a survey looking at the attitudes and beliefs regarding genetics and technology in the beef industry.

Five survey participants will be randomly selected to receive a $100 Visa gift card.

Click on the link below to see study information and fill out the survey:

Survey is available until June 16th, 2017.

BIF Is Coming

Watch the blog Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week for coverage from the Beef Improvement Federation Symposium in Athens, Georgia. For those of you who have followed in the past, that means there will be LOTS of posts this week!
Also, Thursday afternoon, June 1, I will be speaking during the Advancements in Producer Applications breakout session.
You can also follow the conference using the #BIF17 hashtag on Twitter.

Also, a big THANK YOU to the American Simmental-Simbrah Foundation for helping fund four MU graduate students' attendance at BIF. If you are at BIF, please say introduce yourself to Harly Durbin, Sara Nilson, Tamar Crum and Troy Rowan.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Angus Single-Step Has Launch Date

Angus Genetics Inc will switch to single-step genomic prediction on July 7th.

Since 2010 they have been using multi-step genomic prediction. In multi-step, genomic predictions are treated as correlated traits to produce GE-EPDs. In single-step, all genomic, pedigree, and performance data is analyzed in one model. The key to calculating EPDs is measuring genetic similarity. Traditional EPDs used pedigree data to estimate genetic similarity. In single-step, genomic data more accurately measures relatedness, i.e. genetic similarity. The pedigree and genomic relationship measures are combined.

Since November, AGI has evaluated multi-step vs single-step. They have seen very similar accuracies between the two methods. But, single-step tends to have slightly higher accuracies. Further, there are several advantages to single-step. These advantages include removing the need to recalibrate and using all of the data simultaneously.

Watch for further information from Angus about the switch to single-step as July 7th approaches.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hair Shedding Update and Reminders

It is the time of year to once again record and report hair shedding scores. This fact sheet on should come in handy.

Participants in our hair shedding genomic research project should have received an email from Harly Durbin. This email contained an Excel file to report hair shedding scores on enrolled cattle. If not, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. We must receive 2017 data in these Excel files!

It is important that we receive data on our target goal of 8,000 cattle. If your cattle are enrolled in the research program, we should have received DNA cards and 2016 data from you by now. If we have not yet received your data, you are in danger of being removed from the program. If we have not received your data, please get in touch with Harly and I by email or by phone.

We know receiving genomic-enhanced EPDs is very important to hair shedding study participants. This is also a priority to us. We have worked with breed associations and GeneSeek to make this happen.

For IGS breed associations, we are sending genotypes from Mizzou to Mahdi Saatchi, IGS’s genomic scientist. We are still working out how the data will be formatted when we send the data between Mizzou and IGS. For other breed associations, we are sending genotype data directly from GeneSeek to the breed association.

Many participants will start to receive GE-EPDs for their animals in the next few weeks.

Please be patient with us. We are not a service provider. This is our first time sharing research genotypes with breed associations. So, we are forging a new path. Please stick with us as we create tools to select more heat tolerant and sustainable cattle.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns. Or, see our FAQ page.

We appreciate your help and interest in this project!

Game Changers

by Ron Locke
R & J Ranch, Long Lane

All professions require their members to attend periodic continuation training to stay abreast of innovations in their given fields. While some may argue “Cattlemen” or Cow/Calf Producers are not professions, I strongly disagree.  For the sake of argument and space let’s assume I’m right and skip the several paragraphs of justification to that end. We cattlemen need to know how to improve our operations and that requires keeping ourselves informed.
In the past few weeks I have attended several conferences and came to the conclusion there are three “gamechangers” currently available in our industry that are being overlooked by most cattle producers and they are having a significant impact on their bottom lines day in and day out.
The first “gamechanger” is toxic fescue and its insidious drain on cattle performance from birth to death. With years of research at numerous universities and thousands of herds examined and assimilated we know every animal eating toxic K-31 fescue is being affected and more importantly we know there is no silver bullet that will prevent the toxin from lowering conception rates or reducing the weight gain loss we unknowingly experience when animals consume it. There are studies being conducted in genetics which may prove some cattle are better than others on K-31 but it is very doubtful we will find a breed that is immune to the toxin. The only certain way to rid our herds of the losses is to eliminate toxic K-31 from our pastures. The new “toxic friendly” or novel fescues have proven they will perform as well as the old K-31 in harsh conditions and cattle will not incur any of the problems consuming them. The longer you wait to eradicate your toxic fescue the more money you are leaving in the fields.
Bottom Line: You can raise conceptions rates in your herd by 15-20% and increase weight gains on all cattle by over ½ pound per day per animal! It’s impossible to justify, “it’s too costly to eradicate my toxic fescue”, when just the opposite is true.
The second “gamechanger” is fixed time artificial insemination (FTAI). In the past few years we have seen FTAI become more prevalent in the beef industry. Now with a new protocol called Split Time AI we have breeding by appointment with a reduction of drugs used and improved conception rates. Everyone understands a calf born at the beginning of the calving season weighs more than a calf born at the end of the season. At 2 pounds per day that can easily amount to over 100 pounds per calf born early over those late calves and at $1.50 a pound every calf born early puts extra dollars in your pocket. With split time AI you can see over 60% of your calves born in the first 16 days of calving season which I can personally attest to.
Bottom Line: Split Time AI will condense your calving window, significantly improve your herd genetics, and put more pounds on your calves by sale day translating to more money in your pocket!

Lastly, the third “gamechanger” is Genetic testing. Most registered herd/seed stock breeders have been using genetic testing for many years. Now we can test most all animals, providing informed expected progeny differences, (EPD’s) on our commercial cattle like registered cattle. I’ve heard countless producers tell me they can look at an animal and tell “XYZ”.  I have witnessed many of these same producers put to the test with live animals and DNA testing results proving you can’t.  You simply can’t look at an animal and tell what its next 10-20 calves will weigh at birth or at weaning or how big their ribeye’s will be or nearly anything else for that matter. But EPD’s will with certain degrees of accuracy depending on the trait. If your calves weigh 500 pounds at weaning now and you select a bull with a high weaning weight EPD your calves could easily weigh 550 at weaning next year.  If you are retaining heifers for your herd you may want to focus on heifers that score higher in calving ease maternal (CEM), heifer pregnancy (HP), milk, etc. These traits can be determined the day the heifer calf is born by simply taking a drop of blood from the ear and placing it on a “blood card” and sending it to the appropriate testing lab for your breed/crossbred of cattle. Results are normally back within 30 days, long before you need to market the animals. At weaning time you can select the best heifer calves in your herd to retain and sell the rest.
Bottom Line: For less than $50 with some basic test costing as little as $17 you can determine the value of a calf to your operation about a month after they are born.

I have some experience with each of these topics and would be glad to answer any questions you may have however for more detailed advice I encourage you to contact the specific experts listed below and incorporate these gamechangers into your operation increasing your profitability in the coming years!

Toxic Fescue: Dr. Craig Roberts,  State Forage Ext Specialist & Professor Plant Sciences University of Missouri
 Web profile

Split Time AI:  Dr. David Patterson, State Beef Reproduction Ext Specialist & Professor of Animal Science University of Missouri
Web profile

Genetics: Dr. Jared Decker, State Beef Genetics Ext Specialist & Assistant Professor University of Missouri
Web profile

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Now HIRING! Looking for talented postdoctoral fellow

My group is currently recruiting a postdoctoral fellow.

We are looking for candidates who are passionate about genetics, genomics, and research. Ideal candidates are creative, hard working (while maintaining a work/life balance), and self starters. Our group is strictly computational, so candidates should enjoy working on computers and analyzing data. Candidates should have programming experience (typically in R, Python, Perl, Julia, etc.) and be familiar with the command line. Candidates will need to demonstrate ability to write well and publish research.

We currently have access to over 48,000 genotyped beef cattle with phenotypes and breeding values from breed associations (see Decker, 2015). We are currently negotiating to obtain access to an additional 300,000 genotyped cattle. These samples are in addition to tens of thousands of animals genotyped by the University of Missouri researchers (see Google Scholar profile for examples of data sets). We also have access to whole genome sequencing data from over 2,000 cattle. So, if you like working with lots of data, come join us! Our group uses population genomics to better understand the  history of cattle breeds and to inform future selection decisions. We are interested in local genetic adaption, fertility, inbreeding, and, of course, genomic prediction. We have a large USDA-funded project focusing on local adaption in cattle. With our collaborators, we also enjoy projects looking at the evolution of quail, buffalo, and catfish.

Candidates interested in science communication and extension will also have opportunities to develop these skills.

We hope to fill the position as soon as possible, but hiring the right candidate will be the priority.

Interested candidates should contact Jared Decker, either by email, phone, or Twitter. Please include your CV and references.

As a mentor, my focus is helping you achieve your career goals. I have an open door policy and routinely touch base with my students. We have weekly joint lab meetings with Jerry Taylor's group and Bob Schnabel's group. I have an annual meeting with each mentee to discuss career plans, 5 and 10 year plans, progress, professional development goals, etc. I would be happy to put you in touch with my current graduate students so they can tell you more about my mentorship style and what working in my group is like.

Salary based on experience, history of productivity, and qualifications; salary will be in the range of $50,000 to $65,000.

Please contact me if you would like more information about this position.

The University of Missouri is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. To request ADA accommodations, please contact Amber Cheek, JD our Director of ADA Education and Accessibility at 573-884-7278 (V/TTY).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017