J. David Nichols, Nichols Farms, Bridgewater, IA

Invest in gene discovery, or else

"At first, predicting the seedstock industry’s direction seemed problematic. Then I realized that’s what I’ve been doing since I purchased my first registered Angus 4-H heifer as a 13-year-old lad. To survive, I had to anticipate the economic realities of the entire beef industry and provide real, not perceived, value to our commercial customers.

"Cost of gain is the difference between profit and loss in feedlots. Genomic-enhanced Residual Average Daily Gain (RADG) and $Feedlot EPDs apply to every bovine in a feedlot, regardless of its color, gender or how it grades. RADG and $Feedlot EPDs are largely being ignored by seedstock breeders and bull studs; sale catalogs seldom even publish them.

Dave Nichols"RADG determines profit for steers in the feedlot for 140-180 days, but metabolic and rumen efficiency is a cost that occurs 365 days/year for their sisters. Fecundity, coupled with metabolic efficiency, is the key to profit in a cowherd. That said, the seedstock industry has largely been focused on the visual phenotypes of “donor cows” the past two decades.

"Gene discovery is an ongoing task as today’s markers and genetic SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, will soon become obsolete as they drift with each generation. If breed associations fail to gather economically relative phenotypic data and invest their resources for gene discovery, the possibility of a corporate genetic supplier like those currently in plants, poultry and swine is very real.

"Beef’s future will depend more than ever on genetic inputs in the next 10 years. I believe the seedstock industry will adopt science-based technology and concentrate on supplying the world’s consumers with reasonably priced, safe and good-tasting beef."