Dr. Joe Cassady believes the biggest challenges facing beef cattle breeding and genetics are to identify the appropriate direction in which change should be made and then maintain that selection for years or decades.

Cassady challenged the audience of Seedstock producers to think outside the box and look ahead to some new methods or ways technology could impact effective genetic change in the beef cattle industry in the future. “Today technology is available to make effective genetic change,” says Cassady. “However, producers continue to struggle to develop balanced selection programs based on sound economics.”

He outlines the generation interval in beef cattle is 4 to 5 years. A common goal among geneticists’ when initiating experimental selection projects is 5 generations of continuous selection. Thus, producers should think in terms of 20 to 25 years to change a population. It is possible to change traits which are highly heritable in a shorter period of time while lowly heritable traits will take longer. 

Additional visionary points presented by Cassady include considerations of the impacts of export markets on the beef cattle industry. Some producers may want to become very specialized to meet these export market protocols and design their seedstock program around these parameters.

Cassady also cautions producers that the cow-calf environment varies greatly across the United States. Matching the cow to her environment while producing a calf with optimal market value is the great challenge with which beef producers continue to struggle. The tools are available to change the genetics of beef cattle. However, the direction change will take is still a subject of great debate among beef producers.

Source: B. Lynn Gordon