Inside information equals faster genetic progress

Feb 19, 2010
by WLJ

Regardless of segment, breed, environment or type of operation, all cattle producers have one thing in common: They are continually working to produce a higher-quality end product. Genetic progress is fundamental to that goal, and— no matter what a specific operation’s goals are—adding inside information from a comprehensive DNA profile to the decision-making toolbox is a powerful option to help speed up this process.

Dr. Kevin DeHaan, technical services director, Igenity, says there are multiple advantages to DNA technology when making important decisions.

“With a comprehensive DNA profile, producers can gain information about more than 15 economically important traits, many of which are difficult, if not impossible, to measure with any other tool,” he says. “Plus, producers can get this inside information about cattle early in their lives to help make better decisions for faster genetic progress.”

DeHaan adds that the best place to start putting the power of DNA to work is with herd sires and young females.

“The most important, and convenient, place to start incorporating DNA technology is with the cattle that have the most genetic impact on the future of a herd — bulls and replacement heifers,” he explains. “If producers profile their bull battery and potential replacement heifers, then they can gain inside information to help make better selection and breeding decisions — ultimately helping reach their herd goals faster.”

To help illustrate how this genetic progress can happen, Dr. Bob Weaber, state Extension specialist, beef genetics, University of Missouri, developed a model that shows how a herd’s genetics will look based on a selected scenario.

“The purpose of this model is to explore the effect over time of different selection protocols and strategies,” Weaber says. “It is designed to illustrate the differences in genetic merit based on using the Igenity profile to help select sires or replacement heifers, or the combination of both.”

The first illustration, Graph 1, contrasts the potential genetic improvement of a calf crop by using sires with three different scores from Igenity for marbling. In this example, bulls with marbling scores of 5, 7 and 9 are mated to cows with average scores of 5.5. In this example, replacement heifers are selected based on their scores from Igenity, which means they also contribute to the improvement in the calf crop.

“The first line represents the use of sires with a score of 5. This shows some improvement is made over time, but it is due to the improvement from the replacement heifers that are included back in the herd, not the sires,” Weaber says. “The other two examples both result in an improvement in the calf crop because the sires are superior to the cow herd for this trait.”

However, he says the most interesting part is to