Folks at MU also continue to demonstrate the power of combining FTAI with the use of high-accuracy sires at the university’s Thompson Farm Research Center (TFRC). Several years ago, they started aiming the cowherd there toward production of premium-quality beef – Prime and the upper two-thirds of Choice – a carcass specification for Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®). All of the heifers and cows there are exposed to one round of AI, followed by clean-up bulls for a 60-day breeding season.

Since 2008, 272 steers from the MU research herd were fed at Irsik and Doll Feed Yard at Garden City, KS. Of the 198 steers that were sired by high accuracy AI sires, 100% graded Choice or higher, 55% qualified for CAB, and 31% graded Prime.  Of the 74 steers resulting from natural service, 96% graded Choice or higher, 43% qualified for CAB and 15% graded Prime.  Currently, 24% of all black-hided cattle in the U.S. qualify for CAB, and only 3% grade Prime. Steers from TFRC received first place in the National Angus Carcass Challenge for the Central Region during the 2nd quarter in 2010 and 2011.

Patterson believes one reason for the slow adoption of reproductive management technologies like FTAI has been a lack of clarity regarding the economic incentives for cattle that can result from the strategies.

Though premiums have long existed for higher quality-grading cattle, higher-yielding cattle and the like, it’s taken awhile for producers to see the direct incentive if they don’t retain ownership in their cattle through the feedlot. That’s begun to change, especially with quality-grade incentives tied to large-scale, added-value programs like CAB. In turn, more order buyers are paying more for calves with that kind of potential.

“Economics is the carrot that must be there,” Patterson says. He adds, however, “If I’m going to use FTAI and improved genetics, I’ve got to be a better marketer. I can’t market those cattle with added value through the same old marketing channels.”

Aside from the genetic strides these technologies enable within individual herds, Patterson believes increased adoption of their use is essential if the U.S. beef industry is to remain competitive globally.

“The U.S. can produce more high-quality beef than anywhere in the world, and we have the tools to produce even more,” Patterson says. “But we need to have, and maintain, that focus as an industry.”

Editor’s note: If you want to consider the possibilities of AI, ES and FTAI, consider these free, online sources:

• http://j.mp/x8Wsoc – This Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) website includes ES protocols for cows and heifers presented in an easily digested manner. You can also access proceedings from ARSBC conferences like those mentioned in this article.

• University of Missouri Learning modules at http://j.mp/z5UYPE  provide online presentations on the fundamentals of beef repro
duction management and ES.