Ranchers using DNA testing

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 21, 2005
by WLJ

A recent survey of ranchers revealed that 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest in DNA technology to improve the cattle characteristics most associated with bettering the quality of beef.
According to DNA testing company Bovigen, 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest DNA testing technology to improve the quality of their beef cattle, and more than two-thirds of surveyed ranchers said they are realizing economic benefits from the technology.
Forty-four percent of those who use the technology said they've seen increased efficiencies in management, offering such anecdotal comments as "it makes life simpler." Others gave long- term carcass improvement and a better tasting product for end consumers as reasons for using DNA testing on their herd.
Like any emerging technology, not everyone is on board with DNA testing yet. Of the cattlemen surveyed, 25 percent said they are not using DNA testing due to cost. Of this group, 75 percent said, however, they will use DNA testing "in time." More education, lower cost, increased gene markers and customer demand were all cited as influencing factors in that decision.
"That the overwhelming majority of ranchers we talked to are using or plan to use DNA testing confirms what we believe to be true—that genetic testing in the cattle industry is here to stay," said Victor Castellon, CEO of Bovigen. "Our responsibility is then to help educate the industry and continue to improve the technology so that the end result is better management techniques for ranchers and better tasting beef for consumers."
The survey also found that 100 percent of the cattlemen who are using DNA testing plan to continue using it and would recommend the technology to others.
Other findings from the survey included:

• 56 percent of those surveyed indicated that they had a high awareness level of DNA genetic testing in beef cattle;

• on average, ranchers have been using this new technology for less than two-and-a-half years;

• 12 percent of ranchers surveyed, when asked in an open-ended question of what the future holds for DNA genetic testing, said the field was "unlimited" ;

• 67 percent of ranchers not using DNA genetic testing said the cost was keeping them from trying it;

• 28 percent of those surveyed said that DNA genetic testing could be improved by finding more gene markers.
The survey was conducted during the National Western Stock Show, held Jan. 8-23 in Denver, CO. While the survey was limited to responses from only 25 ranchers across the country, Bovigen officials said it still showed that DNA technology is being utilized in the industry and that it is beneficial to those who utilize it.
"All cattlemen surveyed have active ranch operations," a company statement said. —