Research explores use of beef-on-dairy trend to increase accuracy of selection for carcass traits in beef sires.
DES MOINES, IOWA (June 24, 2021) — “The growth has been phenomenal,” stated geneticist Bob Weaber, referring to the dairy industry’s use of beef sires on dairy females. The Kansas State University animal scientist spoke June 24 during the 2021 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium & Convention in Des Moines, Iowa, explaining how increasing numbers of dairy producers have applied advanced reproductive technologies to produce herd replacements from their high-merit cows only, breeding remaining cows to beef sires. And by going beef-on-dairy, these producers are building a value-added product.
“It’s an opportunity to increase the value and marketability of calves,” said Weaber, adding that beef sires also settle more hard-to-conceive dairy cows.
But Weaber and his colleagues see beef-on-dairy as an opportunity to gather additional carcass records from beef sire progeny. There is potential for many-fold increases in the volume of data used to evaluate beef sires and calculate expected progeny difference (EPD) values.
Weaber described a research project involving Minnesota-based Wulf Cattle Company’s beef breeding, dairy and cattle-feeding operations, and other collaborators. The project objectives include evaluating the feasibility and effect of including beef-on-dairy carcass records in national cattle evaluation (NCE) systems. Now under way, the research is attempting to answer questions like “Will carcass trait heritabilities be different?” and “What might happen to EPD reliability?”
Weaber described how about 50,000 beef-on-dairy records have been collected on calves sired mostly by purebred and percentage Limousin bulls and some Angus bulls. Systems are in place to add more records, at regular intervals, to include in sire evaluations. The ultimate goal is improved sire EPD accuracy and improved genomic tools for selection.
“My challenge to the industry is to think about how we might use other information streams,” said Weaber. He called other dairy industry sources the obvious choice, but encouraged his audience to consider sources within the beef industry.
“How could we do a better job of capturing commercial data from cattle raised in a variety of commercial production environments?” prompted Weaber.
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