DNA Information Empowers Informed Selection and Breeding Decisions

Source: Pfizer Animal Genetics

Technology helps producers speed up genetic progress.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Selection and breeding decisions can affect the performance and profitability of a cow/calf operation for years to come. This is why Steve Densmore, who raises purebred Brangus cattle at Circle X Land and Cattle Co. in Bryan, Texas, uses genetic technology to help him make better decisions that also benefit his customers.

“We try to produce what commercial producers want,” Densmore says. “The genetic technologies we’ve acquired have allowed us to eliminate cattle that do not produce desirable traits and help us identify cattle that have traits that will continue to move our herd forward.”

Kent Andersen, Ph.D., associate director, Technical Services, Pfizer Animal Genetics, says the biggest advantage of DNA technology is the ability to make more-informed buying and breeding decisions.

“DNA technology is especially valuable when evaluating young, unproven seedstock,” Dr. Andersen says. “This information allows producers to make purchase decisions with greater assurance for important traits.”

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To help accomplish their goals, producers are utilizing GENESTAR® Molecular Value Predictions (MVP®s). GENESTAR, a targeted-marker DNA test, provides producers with genomic information about key production traits in all breeds of beef cattle. Test results include MVPs for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness. The reports also include percentile ranks, which are determined by benchmarking each animal against hundreds of its breed contemporaries in the Pfizer Animal Genetics database.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

This information also is beneficial for commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches in Cyril and Marlow, Okla., and Roark Ranches in Marlow, Amber and Cheyenne, Okla.

“Incorporating genetic technologies has not only allowed us to continue to create a great Brangus female, but it’s moved our steer program several notches above where it used to be,” Bohn says. “I’m able to look at a bull and know so much about him before I ever even consider putting him on a set of females, rather than finding out three or four years later if I made the right choice.”

GENESTAR MVPs are derived using a targeted marker panel for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness.  GENESTAR features a Palatability Index, which combines information about tenderness (shear force) and marbling, and ranks animals according to described genomic merit for traits that impact tenderness, juiciness and flavor. What’s more, producers can use GENESTAR to identify animals that are homozygous or heterozygous for black or wild-type coat color.

This information empowers producers to select animals that will advance their herd and the goals of their breeding programs, Dr. Andersen says. They can use this information to:

  • Select breeding stock that are more likely to transmit desired genetic merit for palatability traits, feed efficiency and coat color
  • Identify animals with desired genetics for consumer satisfaction
  • Make more-informed mating decisions
  • Advance genetic progress

Bohn says DNA information helps make proactive changes rather than having to fix problems later.“DNA results tell us so much, and it doesn’t take years to gather this information — it’s there almost immediately,” Bohn says. “We’ve eliminated some herd sires that looked like great candidates visually and on paper but didn’t meet our standards based on the DNA information. This saves us from investing time and money and incorporating them into our program. And now that we’ve started incorporating GENESTAR into our females, it gives me a lot of confidence that I’m building a superior product.”

Dr. Andersen says that given today’s high input costs, it’s valuable for producers to take advantage of selection information derived from genomic technology.

“Genomic information can help take some of the guesswork out of seedstock selection and breeding decisions,” Dr. Andersen says. “Producers should talk with their seedstock suppliers about providing this information on sale cattle to help ensure they can make the most informed purchase decisions for their operations.”

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Observe Bulls During Breeding Season

If we had not been present to observe the problem, an entire calf crop for that breeding pasture could have been in jeopardy.”
-Glenn Selk
Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

The fall breeding season is about to begin. Herds that aim for a September 1 first calving date will turn bulls with the cows in the latter part of November. Bulls that have been recently added to the bull battery and bulls that have not been used since last year should pass a breeding soundness exam before the breeding season begins. Any newly purchased bull that has been previously exposed to cows should also have passed a test for the venereal disease “trichomoniasis”. Reports from the Oklahoma state veterinarian indicate that 2.5% of bulls routinely tested have been found to be positive for this disease. Visit with your veterinarian soon about breeding soundness exams and “trich” tests to avoid reproductive problems next year and beyond.

A good manager keeps an eye on his bulls during the breeding season to make sure they are getting the cows bred. Occasionally a bull that has passed a breeding soundness exam may have difficulty serving cows in heat, especially after heavy service.

Continue reading the full article to find out how to make the most of your breeding season.