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Friday General Session

Feedlot Marker-Assisted Management

During the 2009 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) symposium, speaker Bill Kolath told the general session audience how DNA technology is being applied by the cattle feeding sector. Kolath, who oversees production research for Cargill Meat Solutions, said feedlot managers are using DNA gene marker panels to sort cattle into outcome groups.

Bill Kolath

Bill Kolath,
Cargill Meat Solutions

“What we’re going after,” Kolath said, “is the ability to optimize not just the genetic potential, but the economic capability of each feedlot animal.”

According to Kolath, challenges to improving production efficiency and carcass end-point management include various environmental and genetic factors contributing to diversity in the feedlot population. Cargill’s approach to managing such diversity is to base decisions on both live animal evaluation and genetic information. Marker panels help sort individually identified and genotyped animals into four outcome groups requiring different management strategies. Management strategies for each group differ, including length of feeding period and application of technologies, such as growth promotants, in order to take animals in each group toward an optimum marketing end point.

Group 1 includes early-maturing cattle, which fatten relatively easily. The management goal is to promote lean meat yield and prevent them from becoming too fat. Group 2 consists of cattle that exhibit average performance. Group 3 is characterized by smaller, immature cattle that typically require more days on feed to reach a mature weight, but produce large carcasses of acceptable grade and yield. Group 4 consists of genetically superior cattle that marble easily and produce high-quality carcasses. They would be managed without growth implants that might interfere with that marbling ability and jeopardize potential market premiums for high-Choice and Prime carcasses.

“The economic impact from marker-assisted management has been a two-to-one return on investment,” Kolath explained, “but I expect that to improve to a three-to-one return as costs of DNA-testing cattle continue to go down.”

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). To request reprint rights 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 41st BIF Research Symposium and Annual Meeting was hosted by the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the California Cattlemen's Association. For more information, visit www.bifconference.com or www.calcattlemen.org/bif2009.html.

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