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Study about economic impact of cattle genomic research could provide benefits

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lingle – Cattle genome research has advanced rapidly in recent years, but the economic benefits behind genome research are yet to be fully studied.

A study from the University of Wyoming (UW), titled, “Economic Impact of Beef Genomic Research,” sought to bridge the gap between cattle genome research and the economic benefits of genomic research.

Chris Bastian, UW Agriculture and applied economics professor, says this study looks at the benefits and costs associated with using beef genomic tests.

The study also looks at whether test results can be used to rapidly adapt or select for characteristics, and if there is value in doing so, he adds.

“From an economics perspective, the study tries to determine what the benefits versus the costs are associated with beef genomics technology, in general,” he says.

The process

In the first part of the study, double muscling was analyzed using the equilibrium displacement model (EDM). Bastian says double muscling was chosen because there is plenty of data about potential production costs and benefits.

“After looking at double muscling, the next step was to approach the study from an economic perspective. We wanted to see if a more beneficial characteristic for cow/calf producers could be analyzed,” Bastian says.

He mentions feed efficiency was then analyzed because a study on feed efficiency was also being conducted at UW. Plus, feed efficiency is more relevant for Wyoming cow/calf producers.

With the EDM, the study is trying to model net benefits seen from the gene through the supply chain, from cow/calf producers to grocery stores.


EDM measures shifts in the supply and demand curves and then measures the difference between producer and consumer surplus, says Bastian.

“The purpose of the EDM is figure out if there’s added profit for producers from using different genetic characteristics,” he states.

Basically, this model allows researchers to determine net economic benefits throughout the entire beef chain using the shift of the supply curve at the cow/calf level and the shift of the supply curve at the feedlot level, adds Bastian.

“With EDM being an economic model, other genetic characteristics, like docility, can also be analyzed for potential economic benefits,” he mentions.

As long as data is available regarding the genetic characteristics being analyzed, EDM can be utilized.

“The main challenge for this study is available data that can be put into the model. At this point, the plan is to analyze data as it becomes available because EDM is set up, and it’s a simple step to just input the data,” Bastian explains.

Benefits for producers

Currently, with limited cow/calf data, the study is focusing on feed efficiency and how it might apply to cow/calf production.

“There are a few articles that suggest feed efficient cows should eat less grass and produce the same amount of milk and weaned calf weight compared to cows who aren’t feed efficient,” says Bastian, adding this data is variable and wasn’t collected using the type of cattle or the environment prevalent in Wyoming.

To discover producer benefits, the study is looking at production technology and the economic benefits of using genomics to improve feed efficiency and select replacements, on medium and large sized ranches.

“All costs are being taken into account, including the cost for genomic testing, to provide accurate data,” adds Bastian.

This study will help producers decide whether it’s worth the price of genomic tests to be able to rapidly select for feed efficient cattle, he states.

Also, with this study, information about feed efficiency at the cow/calf level will be available for producers.

“Feed efficiency is important for producers because feed efficient cattle can have the same amount of production at lower feed costs. This means producers can increase profit margins using feed efficiency in their management program,” Bastian explains.

“Discovering the benefits versus the costs associated with genomics technology is the goal, and the results will help producers in the future,” according to Bastian.

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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