The future of animal breeding as it pertains to cattle feeding

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Dr. Pritchard wrapped up the two day genomic conference sharing his vision of the future of animal breeding in the seedstock sector as it pertains to feedlot industry. Dr. Pritchard focuses his research at SDSU on cattle feeding and has worked closely with the feedlot industry across the state and the Midwest for several decades.

“When we place cattle in the feedlot, we are buying the DNA from seedstock producers”, Pritchard says, “we do end up being their (seedstock industry) customer.” Pritchard’s presentation addressed the issues of, what the feedlot industry needs from the seedstock producers of today and how seedstock producers can learn from what the cattle feeding sector sets as their objectives. Understanding and being aware of these issues can impact the animal breeding plan of a seedstock producer.

Pritchard suggests there is a limit to how much we can use the goal of having “more” for everything traits such as growth. He explained there are specifications in the feedlot that are tolerances or targets cattle feeders have to consider. Some of these specifications don’t necessarily align with simply looking for more from the seedstock perspective.

From the cattle feeding perspective, Pritchard emphasized it is really important to raise our standards in areas that we often overlook. The cattle feeding industry is focused on getting rid of defects that are costly to them and the industry. Examples of this are cattle that are prone to sickness and cattle that generate carcass discounts. If the cow/calf side of the industry can identify and find these defects before the cattle enter the feedlot it would be very beneficial to the feeding industry and have a huge impact on the feeders’ bottom line. Lastly, he understands producers use EPDs for many of their selection decisions, but reminds seedstock producers that an EPD for weaning weight doesn’t mean anything to a cattle feeder with a mixed pen of crossbred steers.

In his long range vision, Pritchard predicts the industry will come up with a currency, similar to a concept of the indexes currently developed in the industry, where there will be a numerical value put on the genetic profiles. This numerical value will then be used by a cattle buyer to figure out what they can pay for the cattle that meet the cattle feeder’s specifications. There are markets for Prime beef and Select beef and we can make money raising both types of cattle. We can all make more money if the Prime’s are in one pen and the Selects are in a different pen (without sorting) and we manage those two pens appropriately, explains Pritchard.

Source: B. Lynn Gordon



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