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Cow Games

Design, development and implementation of beef-cattle breeding simulation.

by Troy Smith, field editor

LOVELAND, Colo., June 22, 2018 — “CowGames” is its title, and its purpose is to demonstrate the power of genetic change, but also the need to strategically navigate the pitfalls of the cow business. University of Missouri graduate student Maria Haag talked about CowGames, the beef-breeding simulation that she and fellow students have resurrected during the 2018 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Convention June 20-23 in Loveland, Colo.

Haag explained that the project does not represent a new concept. A beef genetic simulation was developed in 1970 by founding BIF member and Iowa State University animal scientist Richard Willham. University of Nebraska geneticists Merlyn Nielsen and Jim Gosey adapted the simulation to AgNet in 1975, renaming it CowGames. It was further adapted to microcomputer in 1980 by David Buchanan and Larry Burditt of Oklahoma State University.

Now, Haag, Justin LeTourneau and Bill Lamberson have coordinated input from many other students attending multiple universities and fashioned a web application of CowGames. The new version simulates use of the latest technologies, including genomics. The educational game is designed for use in the college classroom, but also by cattle producers. Available online (cow-games.com), the simulation allows players to apply the latest tools for genetic selection and plan matings between bulls and females.

“The simulation allows you to see what happens, based your selection for various production traits, and in your production environment,” said Haag, explaining that challenges such as dystocia, genetic defects and disease are “built in” for a variety of production scenarios.

While affecting genetic change is a long-term proposition, Haag said CowGames allows the player to quickly see what is possible by simulating the breeding of a ranching career’s worth of generations in less than an hour. According to Haag, plans call for development for yet another version of CowGames — one designed for use by high school students.

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