Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course, who were assigned to work with a local livestock producer to solve a production challenge.
During our senior-level “Capstone” class, our group was challenged by a commercial beef cattle producer and veterinarian to increase her herd size and the quality of her cattle so that she can successfully market them to a feedlot. Our partner asked us to analyze her heifers’ (young cows that have not been bred) genetics using a program called, Genemax (GMX) Advantage, to decide which heifers to keep in order to expand her herd and continue keeping quality genetics within her cattle. Genemax Advantage is a program used to measure different genetic traits through the DNA of primarily Angus cattle in order to help predict the animal’s future progeny and traits. The producer collected blood from her heifers and sent it to a company to analyze the genetics of each animal. These results allow the producer to compare her animals to one another and other animals of the same breed. Here is an example of a commercial Angus heifer:
We were also assigned to select Angus bulls with good maternal genetics and docile qualities through a catalog that lists the traits of the bull’s female offspring performance as well as some of his own qualities. The catalog is so in depth, that we can actually see how his daughter’s have performed in other herds as far as milk production, birth weights of offspring, and various other traits with markers that compare each bull to other bulls of the same breed. We researched bulls offered by American Breeder Service (ABS). We selected bulls to use on these heifers based on maternal, growth, docility, and calving ease characteristics. The producer also requested to use genetically superior, high accuracy bulls. These are examples of bulls we chose:
Secondly, we were given a detailed list of all our producer’s cattle with
genetic markers that compared to other female cattle that were at least 50% Angus. We were able to look at three specific sections of their DNA that were categorized into growth traits (such as birth weight), maternal traits (such as milk production), and profit traits (how much money the cow will be worth as an adult and how much her offspring would be worth). We analyzed the information from the GMX Advantage to make our decision.
Our group began this process by culling heifers whose average trait values were less than 50 (each trait is given on a 100-point scale). Culling these heifers allowed us to keep better genetics in the herd. Next, we utilized peer reviewed articles to broaden our understanding of replacement heifers and genetic selection.
Finishing our challenge, we will now compile all our data and results to present to our producer. We used the knowledge gained through our previous classes in the Animal and Dairy Science Department and personal experiences to make our decision and solve our producer’s challenge.