DNA Profile Adds Accuracy to Prediction
By Kindra Gordon | Angus Media
With the availability of more dependable genetic information for a broader range of traits, cow-calf producers have the tools to make more informed selection decisions that influence cattle productivity and profit. That was the message Kent Andersen emphasized as he addressed Cattlemen’s College® attendees during the kick-off session Jan. 31, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. The event was hosted as a precursor to the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show Feb. 1-3.
To illustrate how genetic test data can enhance selection decision-making and profit margins, Andersen, who is genetics associate director of global technical services for Zoetis, talked attendees through a series of interactive selection scenarios. Through photo and video clips, participants were asked to view eight heifers and decide which four to keep and which four to cull. Initial selections were done with visual appraisal only — then Andersen shared genomics data to enhance the decision-making process.
Attendees also participated in a similar activity with fed cattle.
Via the scenarios, Andersen explained how the GeneMax® Advantage™ report provides index scores producers can use to make selection decisions, including the Cow Advantage Score, the Feeder Advantage Score and the Total Advantage Score. He noted that producers can also choose to set outlier parameters that flag animals that may not fit their herd goals for cow cost, docility or tenderness.
Additionally, he noted, including the genomic component in the calculation of expected progeny differences (EPDs) can offer enhanced accuracy more quickly. He shared that for maternal traits, adding DNA profiling can increase EPD accuracy equivalent to adding the performance information of 16 daughters. For growth and efficiency, the DNA component’s impact on accuracy can equal that of adding the performance of 18 progeny; and for carcass traits submitting a DNA profile is equivalent to adding 10 progeny with carcass data.
During the fed-cattle activity, Andersen noted to the audience, “When we only base decisions on color, weigh up and tradition, there’s a lot of information and opportunity left on the table.”
He shared that genetic differences in feedlot and carcass performance can be dependably predicted. He shared results that indicated genetic prediction data added value of $12-$17 per hundredweight (cwt.), amounting to well over $100 per head.
In closing, Andersen encouraged cattle producers to embrace the genetic technology that exists, to work with marketing programs that help garner more margin for genetically proven cattle, and to ultimately integrate genetics into their management game plan.
He offered three take-home points for producers, advising:
- Buy (and sell) bulls based on superior EPDs that include DNA profiling and indexes matched to your operation.
- Examine your replacement heifer enterprise — evaluate more advanced selection, mating and marketing tools.
- When marketing feeder and fed cattle, position yourself to be more of a price maker.
Learn more about the GeneMax Advantage program available through Zoetis at www.zoetisus.com/animal-genetics/beef/genemax-advantage.aspx.
Editor’s Note: Field editor Kindra Gordon is a freelance writer and cattlewoman from Whitewood, S.D. This article was written as part of Angus Media’s coverage of the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention. For complete coverage, visit www.angus.media.