Easy Use of DNA Data Enhances Cow Herd's Growing Quality Beef

With genetically enhanced EPDs, the added DNA speeds improving traits, whether for maternal or meat market ends.

( Sara Brown )

Beef-cow herd owners will learn new ways to raise better calves at three University of Missouri meetings in March. The sessions lead producers from proven breeding to new uses of DNA.

MU Extension animal scientists David Patterson and Jared Decker will lead the ReproGene Meetings.

Management of fixed-time artificial insemination allows more live calves and more uniform calf crops.

New DNA tools make rapid advances in beef quality. Genomics allow breeders to predict traits of the next generation.

Traditionally, breeders use expected progeny differences (EPDs). Now, new EPDs add DNA data. Pedigrees and production testing are still used; however, genetically-enhanced EPDs give more accuracy. A simple DNA test with blood or hair samples replaces years of production testing.

With GE-EPDs, the added DNA speeds improving traits, whether for maternal or meat market ends.

Recent high premiums at packing plants signal demand for more high-quality beef. The USDA prime/choice price spread is the new guide to follow.

Consignors at fall and spring Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer sales learn the value of maternal genetics. Heifers bred by fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) bring higher prices than bull-bred heifers. AI allows use of top proven sires on any farm.

Repeat buyers want more SMS heifers. With heifer breeding management, conception rates rise and death losses drop. Adding genetics improves quality.

Meeting times, places and local MU Extension livestock specialists:

  • Mar. 8. Joplin Regional Stockyards, Carthage. Eldon Cole, Mount Vernon, 417-466-3102.
  • Mar. 21. Mills Center, Laclede County Fairgrounds, Lebanon. Andy McCorkill, Buffalo, 417-345-7551.
  • Mar. 26. Recklein Auditorium, 202 N. Smith St., Cuba. Ted Cunningham, Salem, 573-729-3196.

The events run from 4 p.m. registration with program at 4:30 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. with a farmer panel at 8:15 p.m.

Patterson, MU Extension reproduction specialist, will lead with a review of fixed-time AI for heifers and cows. He will tell of improved breeding of 2-year olds.

Jordan Thomas, MU research assistant, will tell of his work using sex-sorted semen and split-time AI. New protocols improve conceptions.

Jared Decker, MU Extension geneticist, gives basics of EPDs and genomic predictions. Then he will tell how genomics increase profits.

With Decker’s help, a new class of heifers has joined the SMS heifer sales. Heifers with GE-EPDs are called Show-Me Plus. Those rank above Tier Two heifers in price premiums.

The best part will be farmer panels, Decker says. Area farmers tell how they combine use of AI and genomics.

“We have lots of experience out there with Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers,” he adds. “We extend that resource. You don’t have to be a SMS member to benefit from those protocols.

Taking a DNA test at birth provides a lifetime benefit in a cow herd. DNA does not change with age.

The use of genomic tests was greatly simplified with the development of indexes.

A producer does not have to look at a lot of different EPDs. Now a dollar value is added to each trait and those are combined into a monetary value.

All animals in a breed, or a herd, can be ranked. That makes culling decisions easier.

“A big failure would be to buy the tests and not use the data,” Decker says. “There is zero gain in doing that. No profit potential.”


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