My View From The Country

Some Thoughts From An Oklahoma City Lobby

While scientists dominate the BIF meeting, along with a science-based perspective, I find it ironic that animal breeding still remains as much an art as a science

One of my favorite meetings each year is that of the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF). It offers great information, good people and awesome hallway discussions.

I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel in Oklahoma City this week, scanning the BIF agenda ahead of the meeting. As usual, it promises to deliver some incredible information.

But I find it amazing that, while every session will discuss the latest research findings in that particular area of study, we’ll largely still be talking about the same old major themes. These are straight breeding vs. crossbreeding, terminal vs. maternal selection, added output vs. increased inputs, and, of course, the Holy Grail – measuring production efficiency.

While scientists dominate the BIF meeting, along with a science-based perspective, I find it ironic that animal breeding still remains as much an art as a science. I’m sure that in 20 years, we’ll be infinitely better at breeding better cattle and using technologies we haven’t even envisioned today. I’m also willing to bet that we’ll still be discussing the pros and cons of straight breeding vs. crossbreeding, and what a particular bull really looks like. Some things will never change.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 6

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 14, 2013

The Chicken Folks in the late 1960's took 14 weeks of feeding and caring, water, heat/cool, cleaning, picking out dead birds, etc. from bitty to processing plant. In about a decade they had it down to 7 weeks and now are nearly to 6 weeks.
In the past 50 years we have moved cattle feed and care time steadily down from 2 years plus to now with ours kept here on the farm from birth to processing can often be less than a year. High feed input is far less costly if it is for much less time. The younger the beef the more tender. - marbling not required for tenderness. Depending on calculating all the cost, we can now in many places bring the feed to the calves less expensively than tote the calves to the feed. There is profit and progress to be had, and better eating. Some segments of the production chain will become obsolete, painfully to those currently so employed.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2013

However, the vast majority of cow/calf producers (not those with the majority of cows) do not keep them from birth to processing. They sell at weaning, so what happens to them from there on is not a factor to them. Will those producers be forced out? How can you force out somebody who has cows for tax purposes, just likes to have some cows, and does not have to make a profit to keep going?

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2013

The only "force out" will come from the marketplace, inputs and income, for those who have to make money with their cattle.
Those selling at weaning will learn to make calves that will continue to do well as stockers and feeders and meals or be paid less for their calves. So what "happens to them from (weaning) on becomes a factor to them. It is a question of whether they understand that and how long it takes them to be affected sufficiently to change practices - maybe the best of which is to cooperate with other small cow-calf folks.

on Jun 17, 2013

Your points are valid but with the turnover in the industry and the downsizing alluded to by Mr. Dykers, education will continue in those areas many of us thought decided long ago. There were new topics as well or perhpas not so new topics addressed in a novel way. All in all it was a good meeting! Lots of old friends seen and some new ones made.

Roanboy (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2013

I think your right, we will always talk about breeding and that it is an art and
science. It depends on which part of the industry your in. Todays goals are feed efficency in the science and the art is a good mom cow that looks feminine and can raise a calf year after year. A cowman can stand and admire one all day.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2013

You bet!

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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