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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All brands are the property of Pfizer Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2012 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved.

Brangus Provides New Selection Tools to Commercial Cattlemen

SAN ANTONIO, TX [OCT. 22, 2012]– The International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) continues to stay on the cutting edge of the latest technology by providing tools for commercial cattlemen to assist in comparing the expected performance of Brangus sired offspring to that of other breeds. These most advanced tools are Calving Ease EPDs, including Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Maternal, which take into consideration the weight and shape of the calf, gestation length and breed of the sire.

“In the past we have only had birth weight EPDs which is extremely important when comparing two or more bulls’ calves within a herd or across herds from the stand point of expected birth weight,” said Joseph Massey, Ph.D., IBBA’s Executive Vice President. “But since birth weight is positively correlated with growth, there has been a tendency for producers to believe that bulls with growth potential will also produce heavier calves, therefore increasing calving difficulty.”

Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Maternal clearly help to identify sires that produce calves with growth potential and expected calving ease. While the Brangus breed has always been known as an easy calving breed, the Brangus breed has also become a performance-oriented breed, which has caused some producers to believe that Brangus calves would have calving difficulties like other breeds that have experienced this effect.

Massey said the Calving Ease EPDs will be very beneficial in identifying Brangus sires with both growth EPDs and highly desirable calving ease. This will be even more useful to commercial producers that have already discovered Brangus sired calves have excellent growth with little to no calving difficulties.

Calving Ease Direct is a measure of the ease of which a bull’s calves will be born since it is taking into account more than weight, like shape of the calves, and it is well established that Brangus calves have a tendency to be longer and narrower at birth than the British or Continental breeds. While Calving Ease Maternal is equally valuable, it may not be used as much at the commercial level since many, if not most, calves are terminal and most females never have a chance to produce offspring. However, it will have an important role when commercial females are retained for replacement.

As a commercial producer, understanding Calving Ease EPDs and knowing when and how to use them will pay great dividends, especially when selecting easy calving bulls with high performance EPDs. While Calving Ease EPDs have been available within other breeds, it has not been until the multi-breed models have become available that calving ease could be calculated for composite breeds or percentage cattle as recorded by other breed associations.

All commercial producers interested in evaluating Brangus Calving Ease EPDs are encouraged to visit the www.GoBrangus.com website at or call the IBBA office at 210-696-8231 for information on any specific animals of interest. All EPDs are available to anyone for review.

New Technologies and Old Techniques Key to Young Producer’s Success

By Brittni Drennan, IBBA Communications Coordinator

Most involved in the cattle industry are aware of a potential threat that began creeping up in the minds of producers across the nation and is gaining speed as it quickly approaches. The question lingering among farmers and producers is, “Who is going to lead the future of agriculture”?

While many producers are ready to hand down the reins of their operations, there are fewer young people willing to take over. However, that does not mean there are not still some out there willing to jump in and give it a try.

Brody Wallis grew up in Atoka located in southeastern Oklahoma and was always drawn to the agriculture industry. He was raised on his family’s small ranch in which a commercial cow-calf operation was in place to manage the property as well as keep family ties to the cattle industry. He then began taking more of an interest in the cattle operation as he was exposed to agriculture through 4-H and showing cattle throughout high school in FFA. He especially enjoyed visiting relatives on larger cattle operations in north Texas where he was able to watch and learn how large-scale commercial cattle ranches operated.

Wallis started college at Oklahoma State University with the intent of practicing large animal veterinary medicine. He later decided that he wanted to be in the beef industry in another capacity. He changed his Animal Science option from pre-vet to business and began taking classes in economics and range management to gain knowledge that would prepare him for a future in the cattle industry. His formal education helped Wallis form the basis for a small herd of cows on his family ranch.

“As a long-term goal, I want to be a producer who can make a positive impact in the industry,” Wallis said. “With an aging industry and aging producers, there are going to be more opportunities for young producers to introduce new ideas and perspectives to advance and grow the industry all while maintaining the values and beliefs that leaders ahead of us instilled.”

Wallis grew up around commercial cow-calf operations, but when he went to college one of his goal was to diversify himself within the beef industry. He worked for the OSU purebred cattle operation while obtaining his bachelor’s degree as well as worked for a year in the OSU meat laboratory on the campus in Stillwater. To gain valuable experience in the cattle feeding industry he worked as an intern for JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding LLC in Hartley, Texas. Wallis is now about to complete his master’s degree at OSU in animal science specializing in ruminant nutrition while doing his research in grazing stocker cattle and subsequent feedyard performance.

“As young people in the industry, we can bring advanced technologies and higher education back to introduce to the operation,” Wallis said. “And with my background and the mentors I’ve had, I want to provide quality genetics to commercial producers whether it’s Brangus bulls and females or crossbred females.

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