Cattle producers seize advantages of genomic testing

Genomic testing in cattle is on the rise, so much so that one expert says the evolution of the associated technology is like smartphones with an upgrade coming out every six months.

University of Nebraska Extension Beef Genetic Specialist Dr. Matt Spangler says it's important for producers to keep an eye on what's available.

“For seedstock producers, they need to stay aware of the changes in the technology. Commercial producers as well, but often times they should rely on their seedstock suppliers to help keep them informed,” Spangler says.

Tech helps

He says using the technology can be a considerable help to operations.

“A potential use is to determine which heifers to keep and which to cull, I think producers need to determine whether that is economically viable for them,” he says.

Spangler believes it also benefits commercial cattle producers when it comes to buying bulls.

Power of tech

“The power that comes with buying bulls that have genomically enhanced expected progeny differences really increases the accuracy of the EPD and allows the commercial bull buyer to make more informed bovine decisions,” he says.

One rancher who has put this into practice is Stavely, Alta. producer David Bolduc.

He took in Spangler’s talk at the recent Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

DNA advantage

Bolduc says he uses DNA testing for two purposes on his operation.

“We use it for evaluating bull calves for our sale, every bull in our sale that is under a year of age has a DNA test done on them,” Bolduc says. “What it does essentially is increase the EPD accuracy significantly on those young animals. 

They also use the tests to select replacement heifers.

He says it allows them to know more about their herd.

“Using DNA technology, we get information on traits that are difficult to measure typically not measured maybe in your own operation.”

Bolduc says this type of testing wasn’t common three to four years ago and with the speed of the current evolution of technology, he's excited about the direction ranching is going.

“If you’re a young person in the seedstock industry and you are engaged in the use of the science of our industry now (combined with) the new technology that is coming available, man, the world is going to be your oyster.”

Bottom line

Technology, (genomics) is playing an increasingly important role in cattle ranching. Experts say it's critical to tap into the advantages in order to maximize production.

Article by: Craig Lester