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Showing posts from 2020

Do Hips Lie?

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My older son Jaden Decker competed in the Missouri Junior Hereford Association Illustrated Speech Contest.  The Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program has been very successful helping farmers and ranchers better manage beef heifers. We recently received USDA funding to use reproductive tract scores, pelvic measurements, and fetal age from ultrasound to better predict heifer reproduction EPDs. We are recruiting 2,500 Hereford and 2,500 Red Angus heifers for this project.
Jaden discusses using these management practices and collecting this data in his herd.

Hazardous Hair Shedding

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One of the things I learned from my student Troy Rowan was that best part of breed association's junior national expos is the contests and activities.  So, when I saw the Junior National Hereford Expo Pee Wee Speech contest was online this year, we jumped at the opportunity. 
Below is Jensen Decker's speech titled "Hazardous Hair Shedding". 
Really excited about the growth this young man showed through this experience! Thanks for to the National Hereford Women for sponsoring the Pee Wee Speech contest.

Three Awesome Things We Learned From Hair Shedding

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We recently posted a preprint (a research publication that has not yet been peer reviewed) to the bioRxiv server. You can read the article here: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.21.109553 This manuscript describes our work with Angus breeders and Angus Genetics Inc. to create a hair shedding EPD for the American Angus Association.
We learned a lot of cool things about hair shedding in this paper. Including how hair shedding is related to other traits and how hair shedding is related to the environment.
1) Negative Relationship Between Milk and Growth Something interesting to me was to learn more about the genetic correlation between weaning weight direct and weaning weight maternal. Most producers will know weaning weight maternal as the Milk EPD. Many animal breeders have believed that the negative genetic correlation between weaning weight maternal (milk) and weaning weight direct is a by-product of the procedures used to estimate EPDs. A negative genetic correlation between weaning weig…

EPDs and Genomics: A Conversation with the American Angus Association Board

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At the National Western Stock Show, I had a great discussion with the American Angus Association board and members. Angus Media put together a nice summary of that presentation.

Selection Decisions

Use Information Extracted from Data to Breed a Better Calf Crop and Cow HerdHere is a fun conversation starter on your next visit to the coffee shop or diner. What is the most important trait in cattle production? What trait do you think is most important? Another way to ask this question, how do you define a "good" cow?
In a typical group of cattle producers, you will get a lot of different answers. One person will say weaning weight and another will say marbling. A third may say calving ease, "Gotta have a live calf." A fourth may say fertility. But, why are these different traits important? Because they affect the profitability of beef operations! Profit is the most important trait in beef production. The profitability of a bull's or cow's calves should be our number one criterion when selecting breeding stock. 
How many beef producers go to a bull sale to buy a load of soil or a bag of feed? In other words, do we go to a bull sale to buy the environment? …

Angus TV: Hair Shedding Research EPD Developed

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We will have a scientific article describing the hair shedding research soon. Work was completed by Harly Durbin during her time at Angus Genetics Inc. as an intern.

Directional Selection and Local Adaptation in Beef Cattle

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My group has posted a new preprint on bioRxiv.  You can check it out here: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.11.988121 Warning, it is written for a technical audience, not in cowboy terms.
So- what are the take-home messages for farmers and ranchers? We can identify the DNA variants responding to your selection decisions.You tend to select cattle that have better immune systems.Hormone production in the ovaries is under selection in Red Angus. Makes sense based on the breed's focus on fertility.Muscle development is under selection in Gelbvieh. We can identify the DNA variants that lead to cattle adapted to their environmentBlood vessel tightening or loosening is under environmental selection.The brain and neuron signaling is an important part of environmental adaptation.We are losing local adaptation in beef cattle.Check out this Twitter thread to see figures from the paper. https://twitter.com/pop_gen_JED/status/1258786262149808131
Regarding the last point, we can fix the loss of local …

CIC 2020: Precision Breeding and You Don't Need a GPS

Darrh Bullock
University of Kentucky

Precision agriculture has come to various industries. Luckily, there are already tools to do precision breeding in beef cattle.

Let's talk about farm/ranch goals.
For example, our goals may be to

Support two familiesKeep workers safeEffectively use the resources we have
Breeding objectives are genetically influenced objectives to help achieve farm and ranch goals. In Darrh's opinion, breeding objectives should impact the quality of life of the farm and ranch owners and workers. These objectives should improve economic, social, welfare and convenience factors of a farm. Certain traits in our breeding objective will allow us to be more efficient and have a smaller environmental impact. Other traits will be in our breeding objective simply because they make our life more convenient.

Darrh pointed out that production efficiency is the key. The beef industry needs to reduce the amount of mature size and milk so that cows are more efficient. This …

CIC 2020: Practical Nutrition Management - Supplementing Forages on a Budget

Eric Bailey State Beef Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri
"Let's start with the pain point," Bailey said. In the last 20 years, we have more than doubled cow costs. However, outside of 2014, we have not seen feed calf prices keep up with cow costs.
At $800 per year cow cost, we need to make $1.60 per pound on a 5 weight steer.
Bailey will cover 3 topics: Match feed with needSupplementing based on limiting nutrientCost effective supplement selection Matching Feed with Need A part of matching feed with need is having seasonally-appropriate calving. Bailey draws a distiction between winter calving (before February 1) and Spring calving. We often lump winter-calving with spring calving, but if you calve before February 1, you are likely not matching your calving to forage availability.
With warm-season forages, until May, the nutritional requirements of the cow are much higher than supplied by grasses. This means we have to spend money supplementing. 
"The body …

Hereford and Red Angus Heifers Recruited for Genomics Research

The University of Missouri is recruiting 2,500 Hereford heifers and 2,500 Red Angus heifers to participate in a heifer puberty and fertility genomic research project. Heifers should be registered Hereford, registered Red Angus, or commercial Hereford or Red Angus. Hereford x Red Angus crossbred heifers targeted for the Premium Red Baldy Program would also be a good fit for the research project. Producers must be willing to work with a trained veterinarian to collect the following data: ReproductiveTract Scores collected at a pre-breeding exam 30 to 45 days prior to the start of the breeding season.PelvicMeasurements (height and width) collected at the same pre-breeding exam 30 to 45 days prior to the start of the breeding season.Pregnancy Determination Using Ultrasound reporting fetal age in days. Ultrasound will need to occur no later than 90 days after the start of the breeding season.
In addition, heifers must have known birth dates and have weights recorded either at a year of age o…

5 Tips to Help Ensure Cow Longevity

Developing and maintaining a herd with the key profit driver
By Rebecca Mettler
Reprint from the Joplin Stockyards Cattlemen's News.

Cow longevity is a key profit driver in cow-calf operations. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if a producer has purchased the perfect bull for their operation if the cows remain open because of poor cowherd fertility. Instead, developing and maintaining a herd with enhanced longevity should be a top item on producers’ minds when setting goals for the new year ahead.
While proper nutrition and sound vaccination protocols for reproductive diseases are essential pieces of the puzzle, producers should also focus on making genetic improvements to fertility and other longevity related factors.
Too often when producers looking at genetic predictions, e.g., expected progeny differences (EPDs) and indexes, they look at growth and carcass traits. But as an industry, we often don’t think about traits to improve our long-term employees—our cows, ac…

New Hair Shedding EPD will Improve Profitability Through Heat Tolerance

Head over to the January 2020 issue of the ANGUS BEEF BULLETIN to read a new article written by my graduate student Harly Durbin and me. Harly was an intern at Angus Genetics Inc. the summer of 2019, and through her work AGI will be releasing a Hair Shedding EPD in 2020.

Article Available Here.