Multi-trait genetic evaluation: no longer just for purebred and seed stock operations
Jason Osterstock, DMV, PhD, vice president of Zoetis and global head of the genetics portion of the company, said ensuring that every animal grown in the United States must reach its full genetic potential in order to sustainably feed and responsible a starving world.
It is by applying genetics and data to business operations, he said, that more high-quality beef can be produced.
To this end, Zoetis Genetics has launched INHERIT Select, a genetic test born from a combination of technologies and genomic advancements. Multi-breed genomic testing provides predictions for commercial females and, in turn, these predictions provide genetic information for better replacement selection and breeding decisions.
Dr. Kent Andersen, Director of Global Beef Genetics at Zoetis, is active in the operation of his family’s Nebraska cow calves, although he and his family live in Colorado. Andersen said replacement costs for raising a heifer until the day she has her first calf are second only to feed costs in most operations. Through identifying heifers that express higher lifelong production efficiency, he said the herd can be fed efficiently.
âThere are things behind the scenes that might be economically relevant that I might forget,â he said. “Therefore, I’m probably selling some that I should have kept otherwise and vice versa, keeping some that I should have otherwise picked.”
Andersen said the choice based on which female will be the most productive in her lifetime includes optimal size of mature cows and level of milk production, teat and udder quality, growth for weight. of reasonable birth and, after weaning, which females will produce offspring that will convert most efficiently and produce carcasses that yield the highest premiums. While he said visual assessment and cowboy common sense shouldn’t be abandoned, INHERIT can offer insight into traits that are economically relevant.
The test, which requires an Allflex tissue sampling unit, or an ear puncher, is a multirace genetic evaluation designed specifically for commercial cow-calf producers running a crossbreeding program. Samples must be taken from any commercial female meeting visual criteria to be considered a replacement. This is not, said Andersen, a way to allow commercial producers to breed and keep purebred bulls, and only data on females will be reported. INHERIT Connect, a companion product, allows the testing of bull batteries to allow the determination of the parentage of daughters.
Previously, Andersen said, only purebred seed producers had access to genetic evaluation. This test provides predictions for 16 characters, and although there is a huge amount of information available, producers are given Zoetis indexes to summarize the complex data into a few summaries. The Zoetis Cow Calf Index is designed for producers who sell their calves at weaning, the Zoetis Feedlot Carcass Index ranks animals based on combined genetic merit after weaning, including gain, dry matter consumption, carcass weight and grade, and the Zoetis Total Return Index is an economic index that ranks animals based on their genetic merit for all traits assessed.
“With this number you can access the ranking of animals in terms of expected net yield for all traits assessed,” he said.
A genomic approximation of breed composition is also available by taking the marker information and returning a percentage of Angus or Red Angus, British (South Devon and Hereford) or Continental (Simmental, Gelbvieh, Limousin and Charolais) breeds. Other breeds that would exhibit an unknown breed makeup include the Indicus, Dairy, and Wagyu. When it comes to beef on dairy calves, an Angus / Holstein cross calf could certainly be tested for authentication of breed composition, but if it is a breed more than 25 percent unknown, the effectiveness of the predictions would be compromised. Going forward, Andersen said he was considering adding growth and carcass information for beef on dairy crosses.
The bottom line, he said, is that the tool can identify the strengths and weaknesses of a cowherd to improve sire selection in the future depending on where the focus needs to be. .
âIt’s good for a lifetime of mating decisions, especially for cow-calf customers who use timing and AI on their heifers and maybe even on their cows,â he said. . âWe know that most of them produce multiple bulls and multiple breeding pastures. This allows for more strategic thinking to match sires with females to accentuate and complement strengths, but then to correct weaknesses. “
Marketing is another area that can benefit from the tool. Producers who sell replacement bald females can authenticate the animals’ merit at the time of sale.
The results are available in a spreadsheet and also in an online tool called Search Point, an online cow and calf management tool that comes with the purchase of the tests. Testing is performed weekly, so results are updated weekly as additional information is added by the company’s seed stock partners to extend ranking and benchmarking. Additional features can also be added including a PAP EPD for high altitude cattle. â
– Gabel is associate editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at [email protected] or (970) 768-0024.