BIF 2018: Positioning for the Future of Beef Production, Bringing it All Together

John Pollak
Emeritus Professor, Cornell University

50 years is a milestone in time that provides an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments. It is also an opportunity to reset the clock.

The process for selection

  • Establish a goal
  • Create a breeding objective
  • Collect data for traits defined in the objective
  • Utilize the data to predict genetic merit
  • (other steps I missed)


What was the goal to motivate selection we performed over the past 50 years?
Pollak could not identify a consistent goal over the last 50 years.

We can look at genetic trends and see that genetic change has been accomplished. Change has happened, but can we articulate the goal that lead to these changes?

What goal should motivate the selection we perform ove the next 50 years?
The temptation is to continue on perhaps the same path on before. Doing the same things better. We should avoid this.

If Pollak were to define the goal for the beef industry's breeding objective it would be increase the sustainability of beef production.

There has been inadequate consideration of reproduction, eating quality, healthfulness of beef, disease resistance, feed intake, lifetime performance, etc.

There are economically relevant traits (ERTs) and indicator traits for ERTs.

The beef industry is not one synchronized enterprise but rather is comprised of a multitude of independent businesses. In Pollak's view, this doesn't remove the value of a breeding objective, but perhaps different economic weights in different scenarios.

Genetics is driven by the seedstock segment. Can we provide incentives or subsidies to broaden the scope of a breeding objective.

The ability to collect data is going to improve over time with the develop of technology. One of the focuses of precision management is the recording of data. There are also valuable datasets, such as health data in feedlots, that are not feeding into national cattle evaluation.

Are there trends in the industry that change the value of traits that are measured?

Genomics is impacting genetic evaluations. Genomics can help us add new traits into the breeding objective.

How are we measuring success? We can look at genetic trends by monitoring change in EPDs over time. Are there alternatives? Alternative could include is the public happy with how beef is being raised. Example is green house gas emissions. Herd size has declined, production per animal has gone up, and thus green house gas emissions have gone down.

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