Genomic testing commercial cattle can pinpoint poor producers sooner
Does the bull lay under a tree all day during the summer breeding season, panting? Are we feeding a bull year-round that we suspect only sires two or three calves? By using genomic testing on commercial cattle, producers can find reliable answers to these questions that could be costing them money.
Hannah Garrett of Diamond Peak Cattle Company in Burns tells producers testing can be a good tool for commercial producers in three areas – determining parentage, identifying bulls that carry genetic defects and determining genomic profiles.
“Using genomic profiles will help us determine which crosses are the most effective,” she explains. “What if a third of our calves are deep-bodied and the kind we want? If we could identify that sire group, we could use it to produce more of those calves.”
Producers could find more value investing in a $6,000 bull, retaining his calves and utilizing those genetics to build on that investment, if they knew how he would perform, Garrett says.
She notes, “We can also retain the best replacement heifers by identifying which heifers came from that bull.”
Genomically enhanced expected progeny differences (EPDs) blend traditional EPDs and genomic information, which Garrett says is often referred to as the 50K test.
“It increases the accuracy, compared to a traditional EPD. Genomically-enhanced EPDs are a combination of pedigree and genomic results, performance and progeny data,” she states. “Genomically-enhanced EPDs work.”
Producers just need to determine what the end goal is of their program and how they can use these tools to improve the quality of the product they produce.
“Our product is beef. If we don’t retain ownership, we can wean, ship and move on to the next ones. But, we can use these EPDs to offer a superior product to our buyers,” she says.
“As a commercial producer, we get what we pay for,” Garrett continues. “Testing gives us a higher degree of confidence in EPDs and less change in the EPD profile over time.”
She adds, “As a seedstock producer, we can use it to provide the best possible product. It can help us build a relationship with the commercial producer. We want them to come back.”
Genomic testing can help producers know what they are investing in, whether it is calving ease or feed efficiency. It can also help identify undesirable traits like developing cattle with too high of milk production for the environment.
“If we pay $6,000 for a bull, it can give us a higher degree of confidence in bull buying,” she explains.
Producers can get more out of their operation by using genomics as a tool to account for differences in heifers.
Garrett points out some data from cattle economist Harlan Hughes suggesting developing a replacement heifer through breeding may cost more than $1,100. Using testing products like GeneMax or Igenity, ranchers can identify poor producing heifers sooner and cull them.
These products can also help ranchers obtain more maternal trait information to earlier identify heifers that may have calving difficulties, poor conceptions rates, failure to breed back or less than ideal milk production.
“The goal is to raise more cows that have more calves,” Garrett says.
Testing can also help producers select the more efficient animals leading to increased efficiency to save on feed costs and residual feed intake.
“If it can increase those efficiencies and help us save on feed year after year, it could amount to a big savings in dollar value,” she says.
For producers who retain ownership, genomic testing can help identify and select grid marketable cattle for value-added programs. Testing can identify animals with exceptional carcass traits like marbling, tenderness, quality, ribeye area and yield.
Garrett says producers can classify heifer value earlier to distinguish animals that fit the environment or production system.
“We can use genomics to optimize the decisions we are already making. It will help us make better decisions in a shorter period of time,” she comments. “We have to ask ourselves, what is my time worth?”
“Genomics can help identify parentage, profiles and genetic defects,” she continues. “Genomic testing tells us undoubtedly which genes came from which bull and which cow.”
Garrett explains, “We can’t tell looking at the cow which genes she has that are recessive. We can use genomics as a negotiation tool.”
“DNA doesn’t change. We can’t manipulate it. It is reliable information of what those heifers have to offer. Use it to tell our story,” Garrett says.
Garrett spoke during the Colorado Farm Show, held in Greeley, Colo. in late January.
Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.