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Cow Lifetime Productivity

Task force reviews current systems for evaluating cow lifetime productivity.

by Nicole Lane, Angus Journal® intern

BILOXI, Miss. (June 11, 2015) — Mike MacNeil of Delta G presented a report from the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Cow Lifetime Productivity Task Force at the BIF Annual Convention in Biloxi, Miss., June 11. The goal of the task force was to review current systems for genetic evaluation of breeding females and stimulate progress toward more effective systems of evaluation for genetic potential.

Mike MacNei

The biggest impediment to improving genomic evaluation is the lack of data, said Mike MacNeil. This is due to a shortage of accurate recording and appropriate organizing of contemporary groups, a responsibility of the producer.

MacNeil defined efficiency as creating a balance of inputs and outputs. He emphasized that “cow efficiency” is an incomplete picture. In order to evaluate efficiency, one would need to evaluate the entire life cycle and production system of a cow and her offspring. While his report focused on the breeding female, he explained that it is only a portion of the picture of total cow efficiency.

MacNeil identified the biggest impediment to improving genomic evaluation is the lack of data. This is due to a shortage of accurate recording and appropriate organizing of contemporary groups, a responsibility of the producer.

Another barrier MacNeil recognized is the lack of cull data reported. He said explicit data about what females leave the herd and why would improve current expected progeny differences (EPDs). He suggested disposal codes that are simple, but provide a description of reason for culling for future data collection.

He shared that scarcity of whole-herd data and incomplete reporting limit the opportunity to evaluate genetic probabilities for cow efficiency.

“If you can’t measure the phenotypes and report the data, the smartest analyst in the world can’t make an EPD out of it,” MacNeil said. “The fact that you don’t report the data from the culls creates a problem for the EPDs for the ones that you measure.”

Evaluation is also greatly facilitated by indicator traits and genomic predictions, additional components that can be exceedingly expensive and difficult to measure.

MacNeil suggested reevaluating what data should be collected and reported and how that data should be collected. He emphasized the importance of making data collection as easy and convenient for the producer as possible and being strategic about the indicator traits that are collected to avoid the over-collection of information.

He also predicted that some components of cow traits are measured too late in life to be beneficial in genetic selection. MacNeil suggested producers could instead evaluate indicator traits, one tool being genotypes, earlier in life to achieve the same or better results.

MacNeil acknowledged that more work needs to be done in this area to improve cow efficiency and selection.

“The current suite of genetic evaluations does not fully serve our needs relative to identifying efficiencies,” said MacNeil. “There is more work that we need to do in terms of genetic evaluation.”

He invited audience members and interested parties to take part in the task force by reading his paper included in the proceedings. Any comments or suggestions can be sent to him at macneil.deltag@gmail.com by Aug. 15 to be included in his final report and suggestions.

The 2015 BIF Annual Convention was hosted by Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Extension Service June 9-12 at the Beau Rivage Casino and Hotel in Biloxi. The Angus Journal and LiveAuctions.tv provide comprehensive online coverage of the event at www.BIFconference.com. Visit the Newsroom for summaries, proceedings, PowerPoints and audio of the sessions; the Awards page for announcements of award winners; and the Photos page for galleries of photos from the tours.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal®. Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

The Angus Journal's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship of LiveAuctions.tv. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here. Look for additional coverage in the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Journal Daily, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA and Angus TV.


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