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Dr. Jamie Courter is your Mizzou Beef Genetics Extension Specialist

By Jared E. Decker Many of you have probably noticed that things have been a lot less active on the A Steak in Genomics™   blog, but you probably haven't known why. In January 2021, I was named the Wurdack Chair in Animal Genomics at Mizzou, and I now focus on research, with a little bit of teaching. I no longer have an extension appointment. But, with exciting news, the blog is about to become a lot more active! Jamie Courter began as the new MU Extension state beef genetics specialist in the Division of Animal Sciences on September 1, 2023. I have known Jamie for several years, meeting her at BIF when she was a Masters student. I have been impressed by Jamie in my interactions with her since that time.  Dr. Courter and I have been working closely together the last 6 weeks, and I am excited to work together to serve the beef industry for years to come! Jamie holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Carolina State University and earned a master's degree in animal

BIF Genetic Prediction: Would You Drive a Race Car WIthout Steering?

Lee Leachman
Leachman Cattle of Colorado

Leachman's uses three indexes, $Ranch which is birth through weaning, $Feeder which is weaning to carcass, and $Profit which is $Ranch and $Feeder combined.

"Most of us as breeders cannot look at 22 traits and compute a quadratic equation to identify the best combination of traits." Leachman said.

On the female side they are adding $2 per cow per year using the $Ranch index. They have data from a cooperator showing an increase in pounds weaned per cow exposed.

"We know we can make rapid change. We know it can be significant," Leachman said.

With Lu Ranch, they added an inch to ribeye, doubled the number of cattle qualifying for CAB, and improved other traits included in the indexes.

Leachman worked with his cooperators and after three years of discussion, they were able to share the indexes with other seedstock producers. Over 50 breeders are included in the evaluation. Over 38,000 records are added each year.

Would you drive a race car without steering? Leachman worries they we have told cattle producers to put their foot on the gas and not worry about the steering wheel. Leachman believes many producers are using these tools wrong. His suggested solution is creating decision support tools.

What drives profitability in a cow herd?

  • What does a calf weigh?
  • What is a calf worth?
  • How many calves are there?
  • How much does the cow weigh?
  • How long does the cow stay in the herd?
  • How much do the cattle eat?

As cow size trends up, we wean a smaller calf. Most selection programs are driving cow size up. We want that cow to be as small as possible but raise a calf that has as large of a carcass as possible.

Leachman doesn't worry about the economic weighting in an index. He is much more concerned about including the necessary economically relevant traits in the index.

Every breeder uses an index. The index may only be in their head and may be based on visual selection but each breeder uses an index. But, this mental ad hoc index does not take into account unprofitable genetic trend for traits not included in their breeding objective.

"Breed associations seem ill-equipped to educate their membership about indexes. This allows too many half-truths to become common perceptions which then take on a false sense of being reality."
- Mike MacNeil, Delta G

Leachman said we need further investment in extension and decision support tools.


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