“Imagine knowing the genetic merit in calves for Economically Relevant Traits, even though there's no estimate for those traits in the calves' parents.”

That's the promise of genomic selection, says Contributing Editor Wes Ishmael in “Picking Potential,”. Such evaluation was made possible by new technology last year that enables probing an animal for 54,000 single-nucelotide polymorphisms in a single assay. For the time being, however, the cost of whole-genome assays will likely limit their use to herd-sire and donor-cow prospects.

“DNA samples from cattle can be used for parentage verification, identifying genetic defects, carcass composition, etc. But before any of those results can be made, a quality DNA sample needs to be collected.”

Problem is, the most common errors in submission samples of DNA diagnostic tests are producer specific, says Jon Beever, Illinois molecular geneticist. In “DNA Dos & Don'ts,” Managing Editor Alaina Burt provides tips for maximizing the effort and dollars invested in genetic testing.

“Demand at home and abroad, and not supply, will be the key to cattle prices in 2009.”

With packers likely facing a tougher year in 2009 than in 2008, it's in all producers' interests for packers to sell beef at higher prices, get more for hides and other byproducts and run their plants as efficiently as possible, says Contributing Editor Steve Kay in “Eat more beef”. Kay plans to do his part by eating more beef, and hopes you will, too.