Help minimize risk with DNA technology this spring

If one thing is certain in this economy, it is that cattle producers cannot afford mistakes. This spring, cow/calf producers will be making decisions about calves and young breeding stock that will affect their herds’ profitability this year and for years to come. Producers can help reduce some of the guesswork associated with these decisions by putting the power of DNA to work in their herds, says Dr. Kevin DeHaan, technical services director, IGENITY®. “Mistakes in the cattle business cost money and can take generations to fix,” he says. “By incorporating a comprehensive DNA profile into the decision-making process, producers can help minimize some risk by gaining inside information about cattle early in their lives — before mistakes are made.” Make faster progress with more efficient breeding groups

With IGENITY — the most comprehensive DNA profiling service available1 — producers can get inside information about more than 15 economically important traits early in each stage of production. Producers can apply this information to help make faster genetic progress based on their individual herd goals. “The comprehensive profile and the IGENITY software allow producers to select and manage the traits that are most important to them, several of which are difficult, if not impossible, to measure with any other management tool,” Dr. DeHaan says. “Therefore, producers can identify cattle that excel or lack in areas such as tenderness or fertility, and make more confident breeding decisions based on this information.” For example, if a herd sire is found to have a high score for heifer pregnancy rate, which would mean he has the potential to produce more fertile daughters, the sire could be mated to a group of females that didn’t score as well for this trait. Or, by grouping cattle that have the genetic potential to produce cattle that excel in tenderness, producers can help increase the frequency of positive genes in the herd. “By using a comprehensive DNA profile, producers can manage several traits, such as fertility and stayability, that directly affect their bottom line while also making improvements in areas such as tenderness and marbling that will help set them up for future success,” Dr. DeHaan says. Collect samples at branding, apply inside information at weaning

Collecting DNA samples is as easy as applying an ear tag and can easily be worked into spring processing routines such as bull soundness exams or branding. Click to download In addition to making more efficient breeding groups, collecting samples from calves at branding can help producers more effectively manage their calf crop.

“By collecting DNA samples during branding, producers can help make more confident decisions about their calves at weaning — and help ensure their herd is positioned for profit in the future,” Dr. DeHaan says.

Starting with young females, the inside information from the comprehensive IGENITY profile can be applied to make more confident decisions. If producers collect samples from potential replacement heifers this spring, they can use the inside information from IGENITY to help make final selections next fall.

“By gaining this information early in each female’s life, producers can help avoid losing money from developing heifers that are culled later or introducing females that will point their herd in the wrong direction,” Dr. DeHaan says.

In addition, collecting DNA samples at branding also can help producers make more confident decisions about feeder calves.

“If producers are considering retaining ownership, they can sort calves based on their carcass trait and average daily gain scores, and retain those that are genetically more likely to succeed,” Dr. DeHaan says.

He adds that spring also is a convenient time to incorporate DNA technology because the best time to collect samples is when producers are already working cattle.

“Collecting DNA samples is as easy as applying an ear tag, so it won’t slow producers down during processing routines such as bull soundness exams or branding,” he says. “Plus, IGENITY offers a combination radio frequency identification (RFID) tag and tissue collection device, thereby adding another level of convenience.”

Applying inside information

With the custom sort software from IGENITY, producers can choose the traits that are most important to them and apply percentages of importance based on these criteria. Click to download

Producers can use the benchmark software from IGENITY to see how their genetics stack up with the more than half million cattle in the IGENITY database, including others within their respective breed. Click to download

Once producers have collected DNA samples and gained the inside information, they can more easily manage and apply it with user-friendly information management software. For example, IGENITY offers proprietary software along with the DNA profiling service.

“DNA information is just DNA information if producers don’t know how to manage or apply it,” Dr. DeHaan says. “With these software programs and a team of expert advisers, IGENITY helps turn this inside information into actionable knowledge based on each individual operation.”

Currently, two software applications are available from IGENITY; custom sort and benchmark. The IGENITY custom sort software is designed to help producers sort and rank their animals based on the traits that are most important to them. The result is a customized, overall index score on the familiar 1-to-10 scale that can be saved for future use, or exported to a spreadsheet or other on-farm management programs. The IGENITY benchmark software is designed to help producers determine where their herds’ genetics compare with others within their respective breed or the nearly half million cattle in the IGENITY database.

IGENITY offers analyses for:

• Residual feed intake

• Average daily gain

• Tenderness

• Marbling

• Quality grade

• Yield grade

• Fat thickness

• Ribeye area

• Heifer pregnancy rate

• Stayability (longevity)

• Calving ease

• Docility

• Myostatin

• Arthrogryposis Multiplex

• Coat color

• Breed-specific horned/polled

• Multisire parentage

• BVD-PI diagnostic test

With the software programs, along with expert consultation available from IGENITY, producers can apply the inside information on their cattle to help minimize some risk and guesswork this spring.

“As profit margins continue to tighten, producers can’t afford to guess when it comes to important decisions such as which heifers to keep or bulls to use,” Dr. DeHaan says. “By adding information from the comprehensive IGENITY profile to the decision-making toolbox this spring, producers can have more confidence that they are setting themselves up for success this year and for years to come.”


For more information contact:

Wendy Mayo

Bader Rutter

(402) 434-5307


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