Three Ways to Make Genetic Improvement This Fall

DNA testing can help producers mitigate some risk in everyday decisions

A few simple adjustments this fall can help cattle producers jump-start genetic progress — and profitability — for years to come. Mark Allan, Ph.D., associate director, technical services, Pfizer Animal Genetics, says producers can use DNA testing to help take some of the risk out of the important decisions they will make in the coming months.

“Purchasing herd sires or selecting replacement heifers are activities that include a significant number of variables, all of which can ultimately affect the success of each decision,” Dr. Allan says. “Yet, these are decisions often made quickly, but can affect an operation’s profitability for years.”

Wayne Morrison, 7X Ranches near Lingle, Wyo., agrees that managing a successful operation comes down to having the right information. Trying to stand out in a competitive marketplace — and provide his customers with additional information about his cattle — Morrison started testing bulls and replacement heifers with the High-Density (HD) 50,000 (50K) panel for Angus cattle from Pfizer Animal Genetics.

“With HD 50K, whether you like it or not, it’s going to tell you where you should go,” Morrison says. “Just like a map, it gives you a snapshot of where you’re at and will give you a better idea of where you need to go to accomplish your goals.”

Dr. Allan says, like Morrison, producers of all types can use DNA testing to help minimize the risk associated with everyday decisions by gaining additional information about some of the key success factors for each. He suggests producers consider the following three options to get started:

1. Identify superior young herd sire prospects. Molecular Value Predictions (MVPs®) from Pfizer Animal Genetics empower producers to evaluate bulls for traits that are difficult or costly to measure, or can only be collected much later in life. This information helps save time and money by providing more complete and accurate information for better decisions about young animals. For example, GeneSTAR® MVPs for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness can help producers, with any breed of cattle, better predict genetic merit for these key traits. Or, producers with black Angus cattle can use HD 50K MVPs to evaluate sires for 13 traits and an economic index, with the equivalent accuracy of upwards to 10 recorded progeny. The technology enables genetically superior young sires to be identified, to speed genetic improvement, and to increase returns from the multiplication of superior progeny.

2. Better manage replacement heifer prospects. Recent estimates suggest an average cost of $1,121 to raise a pregnant replacement heifer.1 By adding MVPs to the selection and management toolbox, producers can help ensure they are investing in females that align with their ultimate production goals. The ability to grow efficiently and produce progeny that have a genetic predisposition to marble are two factors that can affect a female’s success — both of which can be measured with MVPs in young females. In addition, HD 50K delivers predictions of genetic merit for females with reliabilities equivalent to nearly a lifetime of natural calf production. MVPs on young females can help identify elite females at a young age as well as contribute to better mating decisions and added value to their progeny for years to come.

3. More precisely evaluate herd bull battery. Studies have demonstrated that the difference between the best and worst sires in a herd can mean thousands of dollars earned — or lost — throughout their breeding lives.2 However, if bulls run in multiple-sire breeding pastures, it is virtually impossible to accurately know the performance of their specific progeny. But, with SireTRACE®, producers can continue to evaluate sires by matching them with their progeny. Properly identifying parentage can help commercial cow/calf producers identify best and worst sires based on progeny in their individual operation; better manage breeding groups based on differences in libido, dominance, calving difficulty or reproductive performance; manage inbreeding and maximize hybrid vigor by identifying the sires of replacement heifers; and more. In one study, the single-year difference in progeny carcass value of the three best sires compared with the three worst sires was $78.53 per calf. This equates to a $5,800 difference over the lifetime of the sires.2

Morrison says DNA testing his bulls and replacement heifers has already paid dividends for him and will benefit his customers, too.

“The cost is so nominal for the information you get. I can get information on my replacement heifers and the bulls I’m going to send to testing stations — even the bulls that I want to use next year,” he explains. “With this information, my commercial bull customers can deliver exactly what the feedlot producers want — I think it will trickle down through all segments of the industry.”

Dr. Allan agrees that the success of young herd sires and replacement heifers can have significant short- and long-term effects on an operation’s profitability.

“The ability to better evaluate these animals at a young age gives producers a powerful tool when it comes to taking some of the risk out of decisions about these key animals in a herd,” he says. “Producers can start this fall by testing cattle already in their herd to make better management decisions as well as requesting that their seedstock provider supply information from Pfizer Animal Genetics on sale cattle for more precise purchasing decisions.”

For more information, producers can talk with their Pfizer Animal Genetics representative, visit www.pfizeranimalgenetics.com or call 877-BEEF-DNA.

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